Iranian photographer with a critical gaze

Art Nilanjan Hajra
Reading Corner
Iranian photographer
Shadi Ghadirian

Iranian photographer Shadi Ghadirian looks at the world of women critically, and she looks deep. At 46 she has in her hat feathers of numerous international exhibitions. She photographs either human beings or objects in relation to human beings. And central to her photography is the everyday pulls and pressures that women across the world face as they endeavour to balance between their traditional household roles and the demands of modernity.

Into the world of photography 

Shadi was born in Tehran in 1974. Immediately after completing her high school level studies, she decided to become a full-fledged photographer. Hence, she studied graduated in photography from Tehran’s Azad University. Besides carrying out independent photographic assignments, the noted Iranian photographer also currently works in Tehran’s Museum of Photography.

In an interview, Shadi explained how a very personal experience flashed the central theme of her photography in her mind. In 2000 just before her marriage, her parents went on a shopping spree for soon-to-be wife Shadi. They purchased for her loads of articles that they thought would help her perform in her new avatar as a wife. “At this point,” said Shadi in the interview, “It dawned upon me that I now have new responsibilities. It’s weird that a woman, whether a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher, has to fulfill daily traditional roles and responsibilities, even though we may not be inclined to perform them. I wanted to do something about this, and the idea came to me one day…” Thus began her journey into the kind of photography, which has earned her kudos from around the world.

Iranian photographer Shadi’s projects 

Beginning in 1998 with a series, titled, Qajar, the Iranian photographer has created a number of photographic series so far. Among them are Like Every Day (2001), Be Colourful (2002), West by East (2004), Cntrl+Alt_Del (2006), Nil, Nil (2008), White Square (2009), and Miss Butterfly (2011).

Her second series Like Every Day, immediately brought her international recognition, with its oblique comments on society’s shackles on women. Here she photographed a number of full-body women’s dresses with utensils stuck in a place of their faces on them where the face might have been. She uses pretty much everything that women use in kitchens: cups, bowls, pans, graters, gloves, kettles, and what not! The intricately printed fabric of the dress materials used, perhaps representing complex personalities and emotions of women contrast with the plain brusqueness of the utensils. That is where, the Iranian photographer feels, lie the pulls and pressures in the life of women.

Shadi’s Miss Butterfly, apparently follows a children’s tale in black and white photography. But she cleverly weaved into them the idea of being both protected and trapped within the home.

In 2015 Shadi created her first video project tantalizingly titled ‘Too Loud a Silence’. According to her, she created the video out of ‘slices of instants’.

Shadi has exhibited her works across the globe, and many of the Iranian photographer’s pieces are in a permanent exhibition in renowned museums, such as The British Museum and The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, the Centre Georges-Pompidou in Paris, the Mumok in Vienna, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran.


(Written by Author and Translator Nilanjan Hajra)