My husband and I are lucky to live a stones throw away from the city Boston. As members of the Museum of Fine Arts, we are fortunate to get a preview catalog of all the upcoming museum events. How excited I was that the exhibit She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World, was coming to the MFA. And the main contributor, Shirin Neshat, was going to speak.
The curator introduced her, read her bio, and proclaimed her to be Iran’s most famous woman photographer. Shirin went on to tell us about her body of work. She left Iran in 1974 to attend UC Berkeley and wasn’t able to return to Iran until 1993. This is where her inspiration for her photo essay Women from Allah came from. The above are a few pictures from her Woman of Allah series. Click this link for an in-depth essay on her work by Matthew Machowski.
Shirin spoke to us for about an hour and described the process she uses to create her art. She was fascinating to listen to but then said something that shocked me. She told us that she uses a photographer named Larry to take the pictures! She then wrote Farsi on top of the pictures, or had someone else do it when her hand got tired.
SIt was time for the Q&A. I wanted to ask her about her process, about how Larry took the pictures, but I’m too shy. Luckily another person in the audience did ask. Shirin confirmed that she did not take the pictures, or setup the lighting, and then said that she DIDN’T even OWN a CAMERA. She felt that was only the technical side of it, you know, like photoshop.
I was dumbfounded. It left me feeling duped! All of her photographs are credited to her. There is no mention of LARRY the actual photographer.
Shirin continued that she sees herself more like the Director on a movie, and in fact has moved away from photography to creating movies more recently.
To me, the photograph is the part of her artwork that evokes the emotion in the viewer. The Farsi, the icing on the cake.
The photographs in this exhibit were compelling and provocative. Was it the photographer or the director, who elicited these emotions?
Any opinions? I would love to hear what you think. Please take a look at the hyperlink to her background and the explanation of her work.