Shadi Ghadirian is an Iranian photographer and creator of the wonderful series of photos, Qajar, referring to the art and art forms of the 18th – 19th century Qajar dynasty. I saw her beautiful photos a few years ago at a frustratingly named ‘Light from the Middle East’ exhibition at the V&A. Despite the unfortunate exhibition title stereotyping the MIddle East as a place of darkness and backwardness, her portraits challenge this kind of reductive imagery by showing her female models, friends and family members that she knows, as intelligent, interested and interesting agents with an articulate voice and articulated desires in spite of the restrictions surrounding their freedom. At the same time, by recreating beautiful backdrops and dressing her models in clothes from the 20th century Shadi reminds us of the beauty of Iran, something I have read much about and am curious to see for myself, but something that is often overlooked in the illustrations of Iran as a place of wickedness that dominate. When people talk of Iranian women they do so often with pity, as poor souls stuck in an uncivilised country they cannot leave – they do not imagine a love for one’s country, a desire to stay, a recognition of its rich and sophisticated culture that is both ancient and constantly evolving. I like her work because it forces us to remind ourselves that we should never condemn or celebrate in entirety but look for the “duality and contradiction of life”.
The Joy in my Feet: Inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem, my blog The Joy in My Feet is about celebrating the work of women activists and artists around the world campaigning to end gender oppression. I am an intern with Equality Now working on a campaign to end FGM in the UK, so most of the posts you’ll find are covering current issues of sexual or gender based violence against women, interspersed with poetry and art.