Amak Mahmoodian’s Zanjir (translation: “chain”) presents a body of photographs that cross great distances – reaching through history to bring the earliest images of Iranian photography into the present, across oceans to invite Mahmoodian’s family and friends; and across the border between life and death.
In 2004, Mahmoodian visited the Golestan museum and undertook an archival research project lasting two years. The Golestan Archives are located in central Tehran, which was once a home for Qajars, the kings’ wives, Harem women, and their relatives. Mahmoodian uses selected historical photographs as masks, asking her loved ones to hold the prints in front of them, framing her own kingdom and centring the sorrow of separation she feels for them as she lives and works three thousand miles away.
The images are surrounded by fragments of an imagined conversation – between Amak, and Princess Taj al-Saltanah, an Iranian princess who lived at the end of the 19th century. Considered a trailblazer for women’s rights in 19th century Iran, she defied her family and government and advocated for equality and democracy. In al-Saltanah, Mahmoodian has found a mirror, and in each other, these women find the opportunity to be vulnerable; ruminating on their individual experiences of family, distance, powerlessness, yearning, and hope.
Amak Mahmoodian (b. 1980) is a photographer born in Shiraz and lives in Bristol, UK. In 2015, Mahmoodian completed a practice-based doctorate in photography at the University of South Wales, having previously studied at the Art University of Tehran. The artist’s work questions Western notions of identity, expressing personal stories that pertain to wider social issues which draw on her experiences in the Middle East, Asia and the West. Her previous project, Shenasnameh, has been widely exhibited internationally and the accompanying artist photobook won many awards and critical acclaim in publications as diverse as Time Magazine, Foam Magazine, and the Guardian.
Curated by Alejandro Acin (ICVL) and Kieran Swann (Head of Programme, Arnolfini).
Arnolfini, Bristol: 18 January – 22 March 2020
(closed early due to the COVID-19 pandemic)
Photography by Alejandro Acin.