Forbidden Love; Purity; Yucca Ying  

How do you think the nature work connects back to the portraits?
There’s a purity to nature that I really love, because the other [portraiture] was a little more fake. You know you have to do makeup, you have to get dressed up, you have to do the whole number. But what comes from the earth, nobody can change it and it’s perfect. That’s why I blow them up so big, because I want people to respect what we’re taking for granted.

Looking at your portraits of sea life and plant life, you’ve taken these tiny little photos and scaled them so they look huge.
I’ve always played with scale. I miniaturize people because they’re always so big in their own heads. So then you bring them down to a little size and you see the real character there. And then with plants and seashells and anything that comes from the earth, they are magnificent but they’re small. Nobody even looks at them, but when you blow them up, you start seeing everything there.

You’re very Wolfsonian in that you follow your own ideology.
Very. Why do you think I love The Wolfsonian? This is why I got involved with it from the beginning when I met Micky.

We’re really interested in context. Our collection is comprised of ordinary objects, but by putting them in the museum, we’ve elevated their importance. By you picking up these objects from the ocean or the land that nobody else notices, you’re looking for the inner message of the object.
That’s something I learned from Michele Oka Doner, who is my mentor and who really started me. I’ve learned to respect nature. I’ve learned to love what comes out of the earth. I’ve learned to respect humanity. Even though it can be horrible at times, there is still that side of a person that melts when they see a flower or a shell that’s really beautiful. Those are the things that she’s taught me. I think when people see my nature photography, they think, “How is it that I’ve never seen this before? It’s so strange.” But when you see the details, you see the heart, you see the soul in the object. It’s amazing. I’m so in love with my work that I hate to sell it. That’s my biggest problem. I love my work.

Is there any other subject matter now that you think about that you might want to explore?
I still haven’t finished. Now I’m shooting fruits and plants and succulents, and I’m shooting different things that are a part of nature. Not just seashells and flowers, but going into deeper things. So once I go through that and I feel satisfied that I give it all the respect it deserves, then I’ll go on to something else.

Iran Issa-Khan is available for preorder at

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