Baroness Marie-Thérèse Ullens de Schooten (Variant)
Baroness Marie-Thérèse Ullens de Schooten was the youngest daughter of Belgian and Austrian parents. In 1926, she married Jean Ullens, a Belgian diplomat. The couple traveled widely over the course of his career, beginning their married life in Egypt. In 1932, they moved to California, and in 1935, to Oslo. Over the course of WWII, the family was forced to remain in Berlin for some time before moving to Brussels; following the war, the Ullens family moved to India and then to Pakistan.
In 1948, the Ullens family traveled to Iran, where they met André and Yedda Godard during the former's tenure as head of the Royal Archaeological Service of Iran. However, it was the Baroness's second trip in 1951, following the sudden death of her husband in 1950, which marked the start of her documentary work in Iran. With her camera and tripod and armed with her diplomatic contacts (who furnished her with a large supply of color film), she began working with the Godards in Tehran, Isfahan, and Persepolis. In 1953, during the political upheavals of the Mossadegh period, she traveled alone to visit the Qashqai (Kashkai) territories. Invited by the tribal chief, she was the first person permitted to film the tribe.
Subsequently, she focused on the Iranian nomadic tribes in her audio recordings and films, describing her experiences with the Qashqai at length in her book, "Lords of the Mountains: Southern Persia and the Kashkai tribe" (1956). The film resulting from her first visit was awarded first prize for a documentary at the 1954 Edinburgh Film Festival. Shortly after her visit and the coup d'etat of 1953, the tribal chief Nasser Khan and his family were arrested and exiled.
Most of her films and photographs was created in the 1950s, and includes documentation of the Qashqai and other tribes as well as landscapes and architectural sites. Baroness Ullens became a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society in London, and her work was disseminated via radio and television. In her lectures, she described her goal as "to film life in action." She traveled annually to Iran over the 1950s and 1960s, often working alone in remote areas, and became quietly famous. Her movements did not escape the notice of the national secret police, who twice warned her that she was under surveillance. She continued her work after the Godards ceased theirs: André Godard retired in 1960, dedicating his seminal work to Yedda Goddard and to Baroness Ullens, a testament to their deep and abiding friendship.
Two of her later films were created by request: in 1961, the Institut Pasteur asked her to film their efforts against the plague in the remote village of Akinlu in Kurdistan province, and in 1962, she obliged Sir Max Mallowan in his request to film the archaeological work of the British Institute for Persian Studies at Pasargade.
Baroness Ullens made her last trip to Iran in 1977, where she found the country "hideously spoilt in its search for immediate, ghastly modernization." She died in 1989, and in 1991, the entire collection of her photographs, films, and audio recordings were given to the Harvard Semitic Museum at the bequest of her son, Count Charles Ullens de Schooten. The full Baroness Marie-Thérèse Ullens de Schooten Archive is now held at the Harvard Fine Arts Library, and her sound recordings are available via the Archive of World Music at Harvard University.
Baroness Ullens's publications include the following books and articles:
Lords of the mountains: southern Persia and the Kashkai tribe. London: Chatto & Windus, 1956.
Iran! Éternel Iran! De la mer Caspienne au golfe Persique. Bruxelles: Elsevier, 1958.
L'Iran des grands espaces, Baugy-sur-Clarence: Éd. des Platanes, 1978.
1954. "Among the Kashkai; a tribal migration in Persia." Geographical Magazine (0016-741X), v. XXVII: 68-78.
1971. "Education comes to Iran's nomadic tribes." Geographical Magazine (0016-741X), v. XLIII, no. 8: 548-555.
1963. "The Turkoman steppe." Geographical Magazine (0016-741X), v. XXXVI, no. 4: 187-204.
Ullens de Schooten, Marie-Thérèse. In perspective. Penzance: United Writers, 1989.