"Being a woman in Iran is hard, and working as a woman photographer is even harder," says Shadi Ghadirian, 33, who lives and works in Teheran.
In all the branches of the visual arts it is not permitted to show a woman's hair or uncovered parts of her body. Artists who dare to disagree with these guidelines set by the current regime, often endure hard sanctions or have their work banned all together. Yet this photographer has found ways to give the image of the woman it's own rightful place in the arts.
...Born five years before the 1979 revolution, Ghadirian has stepped into the international limelight in the past few years with her compelling images linked to her identity as a Muslim woman living in Iran. First came her series of portraits inspired by old plate-glass photographs from Iran's Qajar period (1794 to 1925) which she discovered while still a student at Akskhaneh, a historical archive in Teheran. "Until that time, portraits were forbidden in Iran for religious reasons," she says, "so the impact of these photographs on 19th-century Iranians was enormous."
For her own Qajar portraits, Ghadirian asked a painter friend to recreate the elaborate 19th-century backdrops. She then borrowed vintage clothing in which to dress women friends, asking them to re-enact the poses in the old photographs. She juxtaposes these traditional images with symbols of contemporary life: one woman poses in a traditional costume holding a can of Pepsi; another props up a mountain bike; a third stands with a ghetto-blaster hoisted on her shoulder....