It seems like ages ago that Elizabeth Taylor was a bona fide movie star and not the butt of cruel jokes. At the height of her fame, the paparazzi would hound the actress as she traveled the world for film shoots, charity work and quite often for pleasure with her long series of husbands. Starting in late February, one of Taylor's many foreign excursions will be the subject of a photography exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, scheduled to run Feb. 26 to June 12.
"Elizabeth Taylor in Iran" will feature 32 photographs -- in color and black-and- white -- that will be on display on the fourth floor of the Ahmanson Building. Some of Zahedi's photographs show Taylor in traditional Persian dress that she purchased in Isfahan.
In 1976 Elizabeth Taylor visited Iran for the first and only time. Accompanying her was Firooz Zahedi, today a successful Hollywood photographer but then a recent art school graduate just learning his craft. Iran provided an exotic and engaging locale for Taylor, a tireless global wanderer still at the height of her fame. For Zahedi, who had left Iran as a child, this was a reintroduction to his own country, which he experienced not only through the camera lens but through Taylor’s eyes. It was a remarkable journey for both as documented by Zahedi’s vivid photographs, shown together here for the first time. The pair traveled to the main tourist sites: ancient Persepolis, where the Tent City erected in 1971 for the 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire was still standing, Shiraz home of poetry and wine, and Isfahan renowned for its beautiful tile-clad buildings. Grouped in narrative fashion, the images depict people and places with the actress as tourist but one so iconic that she is never anonymous even wrapped in a chador. In the Isfahan bazaar, Taylor was attracted to and purchased a traditional tribal outfit. Dressed in this colorful costume and in full make-up, the film star posed as an Oriental odalisque, an especially suitable persona for one who was herself a male fantasy. Though Zahedi was to photograph Taylor many times in the years following their Iran trip, none are as personal, candid, or creative as these unique images.
Zahedi was born in Iran in 1949 but grew up in England. He studied at Georgetown University and later at the Corcoran School of Art. He became a protege of Andy Warhol and met Taylor in the mid-'70s while photographing for Warhol's Interview magazine. Taylor would later hire Zahedi as her personal photographer.
Zahedi's images have run in many publications including Time, Vanity Fair, Glamour and more. Here are two more photographs that will be in LACMA's Taylor exhibition.