A worn pair of desert mountain combat boots, tan, with a deeply serrated heel kicker to break and arrest a soldier’s slide. Made in the U.S., the boots are still flecked with dust from Iraqi or Afghani soil. They were purchased for $60 in Tehran by Sina, a young freelance marketer, face blurred in the photograph upon request. The boots embody but one experience of how a U.S. soldier’s experience is linked to an individual living in Iran.

For Iranian artist Farideh Sakhaeifar, the idea of exchanges has always been central to her work. Her recent project tracks the illegal trade of U.S. military supplies in Gomrok, an old neighborhood in the south of Tehran. The gear is sold in several unassuming stores, owned and operated by two families who import the gear from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The sale of U.S. army supplies, which has been happening clandestinely since the U.S. became involved in the region in the early 80s, has become increasingly prevalent in Tehran over the past few years. The Gomrok stores are now drawing a wide-ranging clientele. Sakhaeifar first heard about these stores from her nephew and was immediately interested in their appeal. What, she asked before beginning her project, is motivating people in Tehran to buy used American military gear? […]