How I Got That Shot of Ayatollah Khomeini

A photojournalist recalls the tumultuous days of the Iranian revolution.

On Christmas Day, 1978, photojournalist David Burnett arrived in Iran to cover the unrest that became the Iranian revolution. On one side was Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the nation’s West-leaning but authoritarian and unpopular ruler; on the other, a coalition of angry opposition interests from secular leftists to ultra-conservative mullahs. For six weeks, Burnett photographed everything from the shah posing outside his lavish palace to scenes of horrific, sudden violence; massive protests on the streets of Tehran; and intimate moments with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In his new book, 44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World (preface by Christiane Amanpour; introduction by the New York Times’ John Kifner), Burnett collects photographs from that tumultuous period along with diarylike recollections of how he got the shots and got the story out of the country.

Click here for a slide show about what it was like to photograph the Iranian revolution.

Photographs by David Burnett/Contact Press Images from the book 44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World.