I remember at the age of nine being smuggled to school in Iran in the back of the car as the country was rocked by unrest in the run-up to the revolution in 1979. My school, of which mum was vice-principal, had been closed down and there'd even been threats to bomb it. So classes were secretly held in different homes to which mum would ferry me. She'd drive down the road and there'd by a checkpoint, and she'd yell 'hide' and we'd duck down in the back of the car. It was all very furtive but mum was clever because she made it into a game, so I don't think I really appreciated the seriousness of it. I can still see the slogans daubed with 'Death to America' and 'Death to the King'. There was even one that said 'Death to the Principal', which freaked me out. I'd find classmates missing from class. We didn't know if they'd been detained or they'd slipped out of the country. Not being able to say goodbye was very upsetting. My education was bilingual. There were 400 students and we'd be taught in English in the morning and Persian in the afternoon, with the aim of ensuring we could go to university to study in either language. In the end, we stayed during the revolution because dad, an Iranian businessman, felt he wasn't part of the politics. However, that summer we went to the US, where mum came from, and Switzerland, and on the way back Saddam Hussein attacked Iran. The borders were sealed and we were left stranded in Switzerland. A couple of weeks later I was enrolled in an international school in Basel, where dad was opening an overseas branch of his company. I never settled at that school. Though I made friends, I'd cry myself to sleep every night. When dad's name appeared on a blacklist, we couldn't return to Iran. Eventually, I switched schools, going to a Canadian international school across the border in Germany, and the round trip took 90 minutes each day. Despite it being an evangelical school, I settled. As I did so I stopped speaking Persian and became less and less Iranian. It was in the last year there that I discovered photography, taking pictures of a class trip. I was a naughty student. We couldn't drink, smoke, go to movies or listen to rock music. I managed to do all four. I remember asking mum why she'd sent me there and she replied it didn't matter where I went, I'd break the rules anyway. On leaving I went to Wheaton College in Massachusetts in the US to study classics and religion. It had been an all-girls' university but went co-educational that year. I'd never been intimidated by men because I had older brothers but I came to discover that the women would stay silent while the men spoke in classes. I learned there that co-education is good for boys but less so for girls. It was also the time I started to study Persian and was surprised to learn that, though I hardly remembered the alphabet, it hadn't left me. Within a month I could read it. On graduating I went to Oxford University to do a master's in modern Middle Eastern studies. I was particularly interested in the role of women in Iran before and after the revolution. I had no idea what I wanted to do though. Part of me thought I might become an academic, but being at Oxford you're surrounded by brilliant people and I felt I wasn't that good or that I cared enough to make a career out of it. The decision was taken from me because I'd met my future husband, who was studying Chinese, and he was offered a job in Malaysia. I taught there and then we moved to Hong Kong, where I fell into interior design sales. Although I hated cold calling, I found I liked interior design and was good at it. Later we moved to Los Angeles, where I studied photography at the University of California, then went on to become a full-time photographer in Tokyo, where we moved to afterwards. I've found that when I'm doing photography it's the only time I'm able to truly lose myself. I'm unaware of time, of being hungry and tired. I find I'm in a Zen-like place. I love the peace and quiet of being in the darkroom and the buzz you get from shooting pictures. I also love the interaction with people. My latest exhibition features images of men who show they are not just objects of beauty, line and form, but are highly provocative. I'm fascinated by this paradox. They're ideal forms of the human body and they represent youth, vitality, virility and power, and I find I like that. Camilla Douraghy's Man Alive! exhibition is on at Gallery Benten 17, G/F, 17 Wa In Fong East at 12 Shing Wong Street, Central.