The role of Iranian women photographers in raising their voices

The role of Iranian women photographers in raising their voices.

On September 19, 2022, photojournalist Yalda Moaiery was detained, assaulted, and sent in prison for allegedly violating Iran’s stringent clothing code. This took place three days after Mahsa Amini passed away following her transfer to a “re-education facility” by Iran’s morality police for allegedly breaking the nation’s strict dress code. She had been shooting photographs of the subsequent demonstrations in Tehran, which were a part of a larger, women-led movement that had erupted throughout the nation after the murder of 22-year-old Amini. Tehran was the capital of Iran.


The anti-state allegations against Moaiery resulted in his release on bail in December, and he is apparently waiting for a summons to begin serving his six-year term in jail. A video of Moaiery was shared on her various social media platforms in the month of January. In the clip, she can be seen sweeping the street while wearing an orange uniform and announcing her sentence.How Iranian female photographers are using their craft to get their views heard


Moaiery had received authorization to observe Iranian police operations that targeted women who did not observe the mandatory hijab legislation of the nation sixteen years ago. Anahita Ghabaian Etehadieh, an Iranian art director and gallerist, is the editor of the relevant new photographic book “Breathing Space.” The collection features photos of women appearing terrified and outraged, or concealing their faces with their hands as they are hauled into police vehicles.

“The ladies were detained for varied reasons: a veil believed to be incorrectly fitted, make-up considered to be too noticeable, or garments judged to be too tightly fitting,” Ghabaian Etehadieh noted of Moaiery’s images, which were taken between 2006 and 2007. Moaiery’s photographs were shot between 2006 and 2007.


The book “Breathing Space,” which was released by Thames & Hudson, is an anthology that showcases the work of 23 female Iranian photographers whose careers span three decades. The book comes at a crucial juncture in the development of modern Iran at the same time as it investigates a wide variety of photography techniques and genres. It was published only a few short weeks after the “official” redeployment of Iran’s morality police in response to the huge demonstrations that were sparked by Amini’s killing and the subsequent arrests and executions of a large number of young people all around the nation.


The medium of photography as a tool of development

In reference to the demonstrations, Ghabaian Etehadieh said in an email to CNN that “We are living at a historic time for Iranian women.” “This (period) is significant for both me and the field of Iranian photography,” she said. When we take a look at the situation on a worldwide scale, we can observe that there is now a significantly heightened awareness about gender equality and other social concerns… It is essential for us to make advancements and go in the right direction, not just aesthetically but also in other areas.


Silk Road Gallery, located in Tehran, is Iran’s first dedicated modern photography location. Since 2001, Ghabaian Etehadieh has managed the gallery. Many of the book’s authors have displayed their work there in the past.


“Photography was very much on the edges in 2001 — even now it is difficult to say photography is a completely recognized part of the art scene in Iran — so originally, it had some trouble finding its place,” she said of the gallery. “Even today, it is difficult to claim photography is a fully accepted element of the art scene in Iran.” There is a paradox in the fact that there are a lot of people studying photography in Iran, despite the fact that there is a big audience for it.


Hengameh Golestan, Newsha Tavakolian, and Shadi Ghadirian, all of whom appear in the new book, have work that is featured in the collections of institutions such as the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the V&A Museum in London, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). This is not the case on a global scale, where Iranian photographers are widely recognized by established institutions.


In the words of Ghabaian Etehadieh, “publishing this book is more essential and lasting than mounting any particular show.” “I am thrilled that it offers a fresh viewpoint on Iranian photography and that it is the first to bring together a variety of female photographers. Both of these things make me very happy.” These women, who come from a variety of cultural and professional backgrounds, have produced significant works that convey a narrative about Iran and contribute to the country’s history of photography.


“Tahmineh Monzavi’s work goes beyond aesthetic representation and opens a conversation about diverse social and gender problems,” she said, referring to the photographer’s series “Tina,” in which Monzavi gently documents the everyday life of a transgender woman she met. “Tahmineh Monzavi’s work goes beyond artistic representation and promotes a dialogue about different social and gender issues,” she added.


Putting a spotlight on the daily experiences of women

Elsewhere, photographs from Ghadirian’s “Like Every Day” series bring into the center criticism of the limits that women experience in the home realm by presenting people in patterned chadors with household goods hiding their features. Ghadirian titled this series “Like Every Day” because it criticizes the restrictions that women suffer in the domestic sector. According to Ghabaian Etehadieh, “Ghadirian is one of the most significant photographers at the current time, consistently emphasizing social and cultural problems.” “She highlights conflicts encountered by women on a daily basis, such as those between old and new, tradition and modernity,” and “by exposing these pressures, she displays a strong objectification of women.”


The work of these photographers explores a wide range of topics, including gender equality, the environment, nostalgia, and intimate relationships, despite the fact that their individual styles are very distinct from one another. The book makes it clear early on that it intends to serve as a platform for the voices of women by beginning with pictures from Golestan’s “Witness ’79” series, which documents the women’s marches that took place in 1979. Her photographs, which were taken in black and white, capture the mostly female masses who demonstrated against the hijab laws that had just been enacted at the time.


“Neither chronologically nor topically, the chapters in this book are presented in any particular sequence. Ghabaian Etehadieh stated that this action was a deliberate decision. “It’s not only about ‘moving back and forth’ between different generations, but also between different themes and fashions. This conversation demonstrates the aesthetic hardships that female photographers go through merely to express themselves and to create breathing room for themselves.


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