"Exhibiting You" - Story

More from Iran Revisited

By: Sanaz Mazinani
Other authors: Sanaz Mazinani
Submitted: 04/10/2010

With this project, I aim to discuss the impact of pictorial representation, a tool that is forever assembling our visual language, manifesting culture and identity. I explore the physical landscape and human faces of contemporary Iran through large-scale color photographs.

The history of Iran dates back to millennia, although it is best known by modern media’s depiction of the Islamic Revolution, its fundamentalist leaders, and current political strife. This illustration is only a partial picture of an incredibly diverse country, and represents a narrow understanding of the rich history and culture of Iran.

2009 marked the 30th year anniversary of the Revolution, and now with more than fifty percent of the country’s population under the age of twenty-five, a new generation is steadily pushing against set boundaries. Some are fighting against the clergy while working hard to hold on to their traditions, and others are fighting against the surge of western popular culture as they struggle to find their own identities, depicting the multitude of ideologies that overlap Iran’s contemporary landscape.

The women in the photographs are treated as individuals rather than archetypes: an elderly Matriarch in her home, a group of young girls on a school trip, a child panhandler on the street selling gum. While each image contains its own narrative qualities, juxtaposed, they create a complex portrait of Iran, its landscape, and the people who inhabit it.

In the context of Iran’s current political climate, juxtaposed against western media’s obsessive attraction to images of war and conflict, the absence of real portraits of Iranians who work hard daily to make their communities better places to live compels me to promote greater understanding of my country of origin.

It is important to me to show the complex relationships that lay beneath the surface of the image. In this work, I deliberately refuse to romanticize my culture, and try to strip away the prevailing imagery of The Other – the desert, the veiled woman. Here, the complexity of Iranian society refuses to be reduced to the question of hejab, but instead must be understood in terms of the competing forces of tradition and change. In exploring the multiplicity of political attitudes, I aim to reveal the reality of life in Iran with all its contradictions and ambiguities, exploring the trans-cultural attitudes and habits that exist as a result of the expanse of globalization.

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