Welcome to this week’s edition of TIME’s LightBox Follow Friday, a series where we feature the work of photographers who are using Instagram in new and engaging ways. Each week we will introduce you to the person behind the feed through his or her pictures and share an interview with the photographer.
This week on #LightBoxFF, TIME speaks with Iranian photographer and industrial design student Khashayar Sharifaee (@khashayarsharifae) about using Instagram to document the often unseen daily lives of ordinary Iranians through surreal, documentary snapshots and dreamlike, blended images.
LightBox: How are you using Instagram now, and how has it become a part of your professional practice?
KS: Instagram forms an important part of my work. At first I didn’t have a modern cell phone, so I used to upload the photos that I took with my camera to Instagram. I decided to borrow my brother’s iPod and I started to take photos with that. But it makes no difference to me — camera, iPod, iPhone or any other smart phone, they are all tools for showing my thoughts and pursuing my goal: to do my duty by my country and the world, showing social issues. The difference is that Instagram has an extensive reach, which has helped me spread and showcase my work faster.
Mar. 15, 2014. Sharifaee says Instagram gives him the ability to immediately capture a moment, like this image of a teenage boy lost in thought on the deck of a private pool, and share it with the world.
LightBox: What is the purpose of your feed?
KS: Instagram gives me the chance to show the daily life of Iranians to the world, and familiarize the world with my culture. In my opinion, Instagram is the easiest and most convenient way to capture daily life. I use it to engage people with my photography. People everywhere are confronted with serious issues like the economy, poverty and the struggles of the working class, but they often pass by without a second glance. But these same people can gain awareness of these social issues by connecting with me any my perspective through my photos on Instagram.
LightBox: Which post inspired the most audience feedback and engagement through likes and comments? Why do you think that photo got people’s attention?
KS: I think the photo of my grandmother got the most feedback. That day I decided to take photos of my grandparents, because they are both almost 90 years old and probably in the last years of life. I think my relationship with them and the feeling that one day I will lose them help the effectiveness of those photos. I think people were able to relate to that feeling and that’s why they liked it. It feels great that you can share your feelings in those special moments with people who understand you.
Mar. 25, 2014. This photo of Sharifaee’s grandmother inspired the most audience engagement on his feed.
LightBox: When did you hit your stride with Instagram? Was there a moment where you crossed a threshold, and your perspective on the platform changed?
KS: At the end of last winter, before Nowruz holidays, I spent some time in Tehran. One day I went to a private pool in my aunt’s apartment. There was a teenager sitting there who seemed to be lost in his thoughts. The feeling of his youth and the atmosphere of the photo made me feel good. Smart phones — and Instagram — helped me capture that moment immediately, and gave me a way to immediately share the way it made me feel.
Khashayar Sharifaee is a freelance photographer based in Iran
Krystal Grow is a writer for TIME LightBox
See more from TIME’s #LightBoxFF series here