"I think in an ironic way this Web site makes you feel like you have not left your dead behind," (the Iran-born novelist Roya) Hakakian said. "When you are able to reach back to your dead, then there's a sense of being alive and not having entirely vanished."
The undertaking was somewhat accidental for Farzan, who returned to Iran in 2002 to place a marker on his father's grave.
Nearby, he saw the grave of a family friend and decided to snap a photo for the friend's relatives. In other parts of the cemetery, he saw poorly maintained graves, and others being moved for construction.
Farzan continued to take photos for the next 10 weeks, covering about 70 percent of the graveyard and spending thousands of dollars before returning to the United States.
Farzan would often haul buckets of water in the wintry cold of Tehran to wash the graves before snapping shots of them.
"I thought it would be a good gift for the families of these people," Farzan, 51, said. "A mitzvah."