Sara Abbaspour – the new assistant professor of photography – completed her bachelor's in urban planning and design at the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad in Iran; she picked it because it was the closest STEM major related to art. The research that the major required introduced her to photography – a passion that she ultimately followed.
“We had to study different neighborhoods to be able to design for the people, and photography was a major part of it — to study the environment, to know the environment better or to study the behavioral patterns of people who are using that urban space … my love for photography started there,” Abbaspour said.
She will be teaching two courses at the University of New Mexico this fall: Intro to Photography and Advanced Photography. Abbaspour said she is interested to learn about the practices of UNM students and how she can influence and improve the department.
After getting her bachelor’s, Abbaspour changed her career path to study photography at the University of Tehran. Although she did not continue her career in urban planning and design, it impacted the ways she thinks about space in her art, Abbaspour said.
“It has influenced my work a lot. My work is about space – public space and private space – (the) different dynamics they have and how people live, inhabit but also (how) beings exist next to each other,” Abbaspour said.
Meggan Gould – UNM professor of studio art – met her in 2017 when Abbaspour was accepted into the UNM MFA program. Abbaspour said she decided to go to the Yale MFA program instead, but has always had her eye on UNM – admiring the work of the students and faculty.
Abbaspour uses photography differently than the rest of the department – influencing how the professors as a whole think about photography, Gould said. Her work is based on close observation of the mundane world, its histories and surfaces.
“I find her aesthetic to be simultaneously straight-forward and poetic, and I am intrigued by her sustained interest in transitional spaces – of travel, of human interactions, of urban change and upheaval. I find her photographs to be quiet, piercing and meditative,” Gould said.
Abbaspour has had experience teaching at NYU and Cal Arts, and she said she is excited to continue her career in academia. She enjoys the critical growth that the environment of teaching and research allows, as well as being able to grow and be influenced by artists around her.
“There's a lot of back and forth and talking to people – receiving feedback and criticisms and moving that critical engine. … Each moment, you find out one more element that you can add to your collection of understanding … I've been lost as well. I know it's a process for almost all of the artists – that they get lost and they find themselves again,” Abbaspour said.
Abbaspour has moved many times in the past few years – studying and working in Tehran, Connecticut, New York and California. After moving to Albuquerque this summer, she said she is taking time to think about how it has affected her work.
“The whole idea of moving. It definitely has affected my practice … I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm still trying to (put) it into words how it has affected me, but I am sure that it has in a good way,” Abbaspour said.
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After a class visit, the students were unanimously excited about Abbaspour’s critique conversations and work, Gould said. Faculty and students alike are looking forward to seeing how she will influence the photography department.
“I think she is going to be an extraordinary fit into our department,” Gould said. "Her voice and approach to her practice will benefit both the undergraduate and graduate communities.”
Addison Key is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @addisonkey11
Addison Key is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo and served as the Summer 2023 culture editor. She can be reached on Twitter @addisonkey11.