A Show of Strength by Middle Eastern Women Photographers
by Kerri MacDonald, Lens, New York Times
Despite the cultural limitations many have faced, women have been at the forefront of photography in Iran and the Arab world. In societies dominated by men, female photographers are using images to raise questions and explore issues of identity. They’re telling stories — often their own.
“I was raised with people trying to tell me what to do and think,” said Newsha Tavakolian, who shoots for The New York Times from Iran. “Now I want those looking at my work to have their own opinions. I don’t want to enforce any ideas or views upon them. They are free.”
Ms. Tavakolian‘s work is included in “She Who Tells a Story,” an exhibition showcasing 12 photographers from the Arab world, all women. She was encouraged to tell her story “in a different way” when she lost her permit to work as a photojournalist in Iran in 2009. Her photography, she said last week via e-mail, has been shaped by limitations.
But, she said: “The obstacles I have faced are not so special, nor have they been overall specific to me: my sisters, my friends and even my mother and grandmother all have to deal with limitations written up in laws or demanded by culture.”
“She Who Tells a Story” opened at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston this week. Four of the artists included are Iranian; three — Ms. Tavakolian, Gohar Dashti and Shadi Ghadirian — live and work in Iran today. The exhibit also highlights work by Jananne Al-Ani, Boushra Almutawakel, Rana El Nemr, Lalla Essaydi, Tanya Habjouqa, Rula Halawani, Nermine Hammam, Rania Matar and Shirin Neshat, the fourth Iranian artist, who lives in New York.