Payam Boromand lives and works in a country that's not often associated with political cartoons: Iran. And, admittedly, when you look at Payam's work, it is more focused on broad societal themes such as migration, conflict and the environment than on the politics of Iran. We talk to him to find out what it's like to be a cartoonist in Iran, and also to learn more about the way he works.
Could you describe the process of how you make cartoons and the materials that you use?
'I usually read news online before drawing a cartoon. Then I try to find a humor on the topic. Afterwards I sketch it in my mind. This helps me find the best composition of my cartoon. Sometimes I cannot find an appropriate idea, but I still pick up my pencil and paper and start drawing without having a specific target.
Another method that helps me come up with ideas for cartoons is that I think of the words related to the subject about which I am going to draw. For example, when I think of the word newspaper, I can review things related to it in my mind, such as freedom of speech, censorship, and other things.
Experience has shown me that the first idea is not necessarily the best idea. I can decide what I want after drawing several different sketches, and then I draw the final sketch. The process of converting the idea into cartoons starts by sketching on paper by pencil, after that I use pen for highlighting lines. Sometimes I use highlighters or brushes and ink for this purpose. The last step is to paint the cartoon using Adobe Photoshop.
Are there many cartoonists in Iran?
Yes. Iran is one of the countries which has so many cartoonists. I think the main reason for this is that Iranians like humor and cartoons are very demanding. They love to humorize serious things. Even if people don’t have the time to read a newspaper or magazine, they still have the time to see their cartoons. This high demand, I guess, arouses interest among artists to take up a cartoonist career.
Is it difficult to be a cartoonist in Iran? What are the red lines (subjects you cannot draw about)?
I think the main problem for Iranian cartoonists is that the pay rate is very low compared to universal standards. Cartoonists are not usually financially supported by an organization and they have to work independently.
Iranians are very traditional and religious so I, as a cartoonist, have learned not to draw cartoons with these subjects.
Do political cartoons play an important role in Iranian society?
Yes, indeed. I think cartoonists can picture things that cannot be expressed verbally. Political cartoons can play an important role in criticizing. Cartoonists can influence people with the humor in their work and highlight hidden things. I think that visual media, in general, is very much appreciated among Iranians. With all these problems, Iranian cartoonists try to speak out, criticize, and picture good and bad in their cartoons.