A snapshot in time: A father captures his family’s life in Iran

World Today

When the Schroeder family briefly relocated from the United States to Iran, their father documented their stay with snapshots.

Little did he know his collection would eventually find its way to a prestigious university campus for the world to see.

CCTV America’s Elmira Jafari reports.

When Paul Schroeder’s father accepted a job at Iran’s oil refinery in 1958, the family packed their bags. They left the suburbs of Chicago for Abadan, a small, humid town in southern Iran, where he celebrated his 12th birthday.

And the product of living there for two years: 450 photographs taken by his father.

“They were family photographs with a twist, which was very different from life in the refinery. So there were neighborhoods, Abadan streets, cars, all these pictures were absolutely unique and very local,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder decided to publish the pictures online in 2007, but he didn’t anticipate the response. Some 500 people from around the world contacted him after seeing the pictures, including Abadan’s oil museum and Harvard University.

Harvard now owns the photographs and has made digital copies available to its students and the public.

Schroeder calls Abadan a ‘melting pot’, a community that welcomed people from all over. And also a city of “refugees”.  Abadan became a refuge during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Thousands of people fled their homes. Many never came back.

“There was a huge amount of disruption in the city. And that’s where the historical documentations that these photos has brought has been such contribution to the people who had to go away,” Schroeder said.

For Schroeder, these photos are a reminder of friendlier times, and a message that friendship can be achieved again.