Islamic photographer Shadi Ghadirian

Islamic art defined

Art historians coined the term Islamic art to broadly classify all art forms created in places where Islam was the prevalent religion of the land or those in power or by Muslim artisans.

Islamic art encompasses a time period of more than 1,300 years and a vast span of geography. Some museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, eschew the terminology Islamic art in favor of “Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia,” because it recognizes the unique cultures and regional styles of art.

Arabic language, either as poetry or calligraphy is a defining theme in Islamic art. The  Qur’an, is the holy scriptures for the Muslim faith, which was received by Muhammad from Allah (God) during his visions. Poetry or Quranic verses, exquisitely executed in calligraphy, are common in various artists motifs like architecture, to ceramics and tapestries.

Shadi Ghadirian (Iran, born 1974)

“My pictures became a mirror reflecting how I felt: we are stuck between tradition and modernity.”

20091130101841_Shadi_Ghadirian_portrait

After perusing Islamic art, I discovered Shadi Ghadirian’s work on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). I was drawn to how she uses photography to express her identity as a woman and an Iranian. Her Qajar Series contrasts modern objects like a soda can or boom box with women dressed in a 19th century black chador using photography. The series shows the duality of women caught between the demands of tradition and the modern world.

Ghadirian lives and works in Iran. She earned a bachelor’s degree in photography from Tehran’s Azad University. Her art expresses the status of women, religion and modernity in Iran while continuing to questioning the status of women throughout the world. Her work is part of the permanent collection of LACMA and displayed at other museums throughout the states and Europe. She has also been featured in the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph and the BBC.

20091127123433_shadi_ghadirian_like_everyday_broom

Untitled from the Like Everyday Series, 2000-2001,  C-print, 183 x 183 cm on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London

I included this piece because it’s description on the gallery’s website disturbed me. “A shrouded broom huddles with timid demureness, her form most associated with ‘doormat’; beneath her veil, however, the broom handle stands in for a sturdy backbone. With her countenance made up of a straw besom, her expression appears wizened and worn, indicating time honoured knowledge and the tenacity and temper of a charwoman.”

Its certainly elegant in its simplicity, a broom wrapped in a piece of cloth. Yet it packs a powerful punch: a woman who is seen as a doormat, who sucks up whatever bullshit the men and religion that control her, while still having underneath it all a backbone.  Just brilliant!

20091127124226_shadi_ghadirian_qajar_ghetto_blasterUntitled from the Ghajar Series, 1998-1999, C-print, 213 x 152 cm on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London

This is my favorite. Its certainly a brilliant contrast to the previous image of the broom doormat. Just as the broom is subservient, this image is in your face powerful. I love how the model stands with her hands on her hips like she is in control. The gallery description is perfect:  “defiant in her gangsta posturing and holding a ridiculously large ghetto-blaster.”

 

 

 

 

Untitled from the Ghajar Series, 1998-1999, C-print, 213 x 152 cm on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London

20091127124116_shadi_ghadirian_qajar_vacuum

I loved the contrast of this photo, which is why its included. Menial housework like vacuuming set against an opulent setting. It seems like the model is possibly the woman of the home because she is wearing nice clothing but she is relegated to household chores. I love the Ghajar Series because it clearly illustrates the juxtaposition between stringent Islamic law and the permissiveness of the modern world all while pointing out that despite everything, too many women around the world are still dependent on men in one way or another

 

 

 

 

To round out my gallery, I include a slideshow of Ghadirian’s work set to Arabic music.

Works Cited

ForLOVEoftheARTS. “SHADI GHADIRIAN – Remarkable Photographer.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 July 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3q_48te99Q&gt;.

Komaroff, Linda, PhD. “The Islamic Art Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA.” The Islamic Art Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA. Los Angeles County Museum of Ar, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <http://www.lacma.org/islamic_art/ian.htm&gt;.

Macaulay-Lewis, Dr. Elizabeth. “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy. Khan Academy, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. <https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-islam/beginners-guide-islamic/a/arts-of-the-islamic-world&gt;.

“Metropolitan Museum to Open Renovated Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South AsiaOpened: November 1, 2011.” Metropolitan Museum to Open Renovated Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South AsiaOpened: November 1, 2011. Metropolitan Museum, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <http://www.metmuseum.org/press/exhibitions/2011/renovated-galleries-for-the-art-of-the-arab-lands-turkey-iran-central-asia-and-later-south-asia&gt;.

“Shadi Ghadirian.” – Artist’s Profile. Saatchi Gallery, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/shadi_ghadirian.htm?section_name=unveiled&gt;.

“Shadi Ghadirian.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadi_Ghadirian&gt;.

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One thought on “Islamic photographer Shadi Ghadirian

  1. Your blog is well done. I was kind of amazed by those photographs, because the women portrayed were nearly hidden behind those robes yet their strong determination not to be overlooked or ignored came through very clearly. I honestly can’t imagine such a life of servitude, yet I know many of Islamic women are very devout and their clothing reflects that. I also think that there are many women who long for a different life. I was surprised to see the table setting with the bloody knife and the hand grenade in the fruit bowl. I wonder if those photographs are displayed in Arabic countries? I would think they would be censored. The photos of the different coffee and tea pots and all of the kitchen utensils taking the place of the faces of those women was very powerful. Each photo gave another jolt about how those women felt about their place in society. I imagine many of them are viewed as just a teapot on legs by the men in their lives. I have become very interested in post modern women photographers. I’m glad I saw your blog.

    Like

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