Jonas Fredwall Karlsson Captures The Yellow Dogs' Story for Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair asked Jonas Fredwall Karlsson to photograph Obash Karampour and Koory Mirzaei – the surviving members of the Iranian indie-rock quartet The Yellow Dogs – and their friends for an article called "To Live and Die in America," which details a tragedy that unfolded in Brooklyn last November.
"It's a devastating story; it touched me on many different levels," said Fredwall Karlsson, explaining the link between The Yellow Dogs, Hypernova, and The Free Keys – refugees from Tehran's underground rock scene – and Ali Akbar Rafie, the troubled band member who killed four of them before turning the gun on himself. "Producer Ron Beinner and I met Obash and Koory only a few months after it all happened, and at that point, maybe they didn't fully grasp that their friends were gone."
Still, "the approach was as it almost always is," the photographer remarked, "you learn as much as you can about the subjects by visiting their homes or offices and their neighborhoods, going wherever they go, and taking in whatever they do that is connected to the narrative." He spent a day scouting with The Yellow Dogs' manager, even stopping by the Maujer Street building where the incident occurred, before deciding to capture Obash and Koory on their East Williamsburg rooftop: "You can see Manhattan and the symbolic Empire State Building in the background and from a distance, which speaks to the two of them coming here to chase its dreams." Fredwall Karlsson also put a lot of thought into how to group the subjects. "I did a separate picture of Icy and Sot, these graffiti artists, and Pooya of The Free Keys, who wrestled down the killer."
"In a way, it was an easy and straightforward job because we were prepared, but in talking with them – imagine experiencing anything like that, especially with your friends," the photographer added.