Internet: the megaphone of the people brought me the artwork of Tabriz-based photographer, Ghazale Ghazanfari [see: "Thousands of Words"]. I first stumbled upon the dark textures and subtle emotions of her images on Iranian.com months ago, and the impression left was just as difficult to shake as tracking her down for an interview. The 24-years-old artist is completing her MA in Industrial Design in Tabriz: a kind and modest city in the far northwest corner of Iran near the borders of Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Her conceptual photos play on morbid backdrops of loneliness, abandonment, self-reflection and the occasional self-portrait of the female artist in gentlemen’s clothes. “When i feel pressed mentally I take photographs” explains Ghazanfari via Skype from her Tabriz home.
“My refuge is photography because there are hardships that we all have including those I have in my own mind; its like a kind of shelter for me.”
The self-confident, yet easy-going young artist’s passion began with a cell phone camera in hand and those very same low-res shots won her a professional camera at a national festival. Since then her camera was like her bow-tie: always within reach.
Her artwork mostly contains one or two characters, which are usually either women or children. “My luck was that I have a little sister [sister yelps 'salaam'] which has shown me my own childhood and in a sense the experience is like taking photographs of my own past.”
The rare inclusion of a male commonly acts as a contrasting element to the female figure in the picture and serves as a source of tension, division or silence. “I feel that men can destroy the picture. I don’t think that there’s much of a special beauty in men. But a girl has a beauty on the surface and a gentleness within” she says laughingly.
Her depiction of the confinement of women is a provocative message that speaks to the digital ears of all young Iranians. Illustrative modes to describe the borders of society include ladders, ropes, barb wire, wedding veils and guitar strings. “I studied philosophy and sociology and I am constantly putting these concepts in my photos.”
The fake veil of modernity in the social roles of wives and daughters is criticized. A mother is seen ironing another’s (perhaps daughter’s?) hair, a symbol of the conflicting roles cast upon women to be both housekeepers and flat-haired dolls.
When asked about the vision of a photographer Ghazanfari replied “…in a way I see this meandering, crooked world in a very simple way. When I take the photos I try to crack the simpleness of this repeating history.”
Other works leave a more sleepily effect on the viewer. Snapping shots of cigarette smoke as it seeps out of closing lips, mysterious grainy doors and bare tree branches are all Ghazanfari favourites. Though not always conscience of her process, she spontaneously draws the viewer into something that radiates an initial peculiarity, but that slowly has the ability to morph an innate quality.
Having never left Iran and fuelled by the support and positive feedback given by friends and fans, Ghazanfari hopes to hold an exhibition of her work aboard. Hopefully her first stop will be Vancouver.
First published in maziart.org.
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