Beyond the Veil- Photographic Series Considering the Role of Women in Islam by Shadi Ghadirian

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To ‘challenge the international preconceptions of women’s roles within an Islamic state’ is a difficult mission statement with which to task oneself. But one that these images refuse to shy away from. More than that, it is a challenge that they accept with grace, tackle with humour and above all emanate a quiet dignity that makes for incredibly powerful viewing.

They are the handiwork of thirty nine year old Iranian artist Shadi Ghadirian and they make up her photographic series Like Everyday.

The project was sparked by ‘the plethora of domestic gifts she received after her wedding – items completely foreign to a young professional.’ These domestic tools became for her symbols of the one dimensional house wife role projected onto newly weds by societal expectations in Iran, influenced by traditional Islamic values. The photographs were largely shot between 2000 and 2001 in Tehran, where Ghadirian is still based.

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Whilst the body, neck and hair are covered by the traditional veil, it is the utensils that are the final brick that seals up the wall, cutting us off from the sitter’s gaze. Thus both the anonymity of women in traditional Islam and the mundanity of domesticity are examined in these images.

Within these photographs, the women are not so much obscured by their veils as the domestic utensils they brandish; part weapon, part trophy.

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Whilst the extreme depths that the housewives go to in their attempt to be coy can verge on absurd and hilarious, at their core are sincere urgings from  Ghadirian towards these women- to seek identity beyond the marigolds.

In her own life, Ghadirian proves an exception to the apparent gender rules in Iranian society. Graduating from Tehran’s Azad Univeristy with a B.A. in Photography, her work has been met with local and international acclaim. The Guardian called her commercial and artistic success in such an environment, ‘a mini-revolution in itself’. The power of her images composed of every day domestic props suggests that such mini-revolutions can occur in every kitchen world-wide; all it takes is for the most mundane objects to be questioned, challenged, and cast off.

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