Capturing feelings: Shadi Ghadirian, an Iranian photographer
The image looks like a fairly straightforward one. With an Iranian woman, dressed traditionally, standing in front of a traditional background. But in her hand is a stereo, and on her face, and almost empowered expression, which is powerful in its subtlety. Shadi Ghadirian’s photographs invariably deal with women, and more specifically, Iranian women, and their struggle to break out of the stringent rules of patriarchal tradition, to step into a more emancipated stature within the modern times. Most of her series, such as Miss Butterfly and Qajar deal with women trying to free themselves from the shackles of the rigidity within tradition.
Shadi Ghadirian is an Iranian photographer who took up photography as a course in Azad University in Tehran(Iran). And ever since then, she has not looked back. She became a full-time photographer, and her chief subject, became the struggle of Iranian women, both internal and external. This subject would obviously be very close to her heart, since she too, as a woman photographer had to struggle to rise in the ranks. Women in Iran are stuck at a strange point today. They seem to be entrenched in age-old traditions, and at the same time, they seem to be trying to embrace a more modern way of life, and there is always a struggle between these two opposites. This is what Ghadirian has tried to capture, time and again, through her photography. Apart from women, she has also dealt with subjects such as violence, and subversion, which her country has no doubt seen a lot of. She has dealt with issues of expression amongst and by women, the issue of morality, the issue of decency and the issue of women and the stereotypes which are thrust upon them as roles which they must play for the rest of their lives.
Miss Butterfly is a beautiful example of exactly what women deal with on an everyday basis. A series of black and white photographs, the two things common in all the pictures are a woman and a spider-web. This spider web becomes a beautiful metaphor of everything around the woman, the society, the internal stigmas, the patriarchy, and the moral codes. Qajar is very different in its tone about addressing the issue of women in Iran. On one hand, the women are dressed in clothes from a bygone era, and on the other hand, they seem to be showing slight signs of dissent. The bicycle, the perfumes, the sunglasses, the stereo, and the books, they all seem to point towards a mentality which is evolving, growing, questioning and expressing. (West by East) as well as Like Everyday are more tongue-in-cheek. While the former addresses the controversial issue of “western clothes” and censorship of the show of a little bit of skin, the latter shows the traditional head-cover of the traditional women, with the stereotypes attached to women, instead of faces.
Through her art, through her talent, Shadi Ghadirian has, very beautifully, managed to voice feelings which are very personal to her. Having lived in Iran all her life, these issues are things which have been felt by her on an everyday basis, and whether is splashes of colour, or in tones of sepia, or the duality of black and white, she has managed to say so much, so beautifully, yet so assertively.