It's not easy being a contemporary artist in Tehran, much less a woman. But Shadi Ghadirian isn't inclined to leave home, unlike so many other Iranians who have gone abroad in search of greater artistic freedoms. In fact, her work is all about the home. Her first major series of photographs slyly reimagines the traditional Iranian portraiture of the late 19th century, but the veiled women carry boomboxes or other totems of domestic modernity. One of the photos won first prize in a juried show -- until the Ministry of Culture booted her from the competition. "They couldn't give me a straight answer why," Ghadirian told an interviewer. "They just kept saying I was representing veiled women as limited and restrained." Now, Ghadirian's photos have been discovered by the international art world. Here, inspired by the array of household items she received as wedding presents, Ghadirian manages to imbue two simple, inanimate objects with life, even personality: A paisley tablecloth and teapot, for example, become a chador and glowing face, one that holds a tiny reflection of the artist at work. "I always take photos inside the houses," she says. "My series is exactly like a mirror of my life and other women like me -- my sisters, my friends, the women who live in this country."
Ghadirian, Like Everyday, 2000,
Courtesy of Rose Issa Projects