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June 12, 2024

“Qajar” Series by Shadi Ghadirian

These photographs are from Qajar (1998), the series of studio portraits by Shadi Ghadirian, a contemporary artist who was inspired by the studio portraiture first introduced to Iran in the late 19th century under the Qajar dynasty (1794–1925).

In order to re-create the earlier setting, Ghadirian employs painted backdrops and dresses her models, mainly her friends and family, in vintage clothes to emulate the fashion of the day: headscarves and short skirts worn over baggy trousers, as well as thick, black eyebrows. She adds modern elements to these traditional scenes, such as a Pepsi can, a boom box, a bicycle and an avant-garde Tehran newspaper.

Portraits taken in the Qajar period were traditionally captured in a formal setting, and the subject often posed with prized possessions and objects that pointed to elite status. This juxtaposition of the traditional and the contemporaneous served as a starting off point for later series that further developed around the theme of contradiction in everyday life in contemporary Iran.

Shadi Ghadirian has said of her work, “My pictures became a mirror reflecting how I felt: we are stuck between tradition and modernity.”

(Photos by © Shadi Ghadiarian)


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