The successful Iranian photographer, Azadeh Akhlaghi, initially wanted to become a poet. She was perhaps inspired by her birthplace, Shiraz, whose name is synonymous with poetry and has produced some of the most revered poets of Iran.
Azadeh tried her hand at writing poetry, and actively participated in literary groups. But all this came to an abrupt end when she unexpectedly had to leave for Australia and take up computer studies in Melbourne, in accordance with her father’s wishes.
Soon, however, she realized that this was not the right course for her, and so she switched to a subject that really interested her, film-making, at the same university. Azadeh pursued her studies with great success, won a scholarship for a post-graduate course, and found well-paid employment. “Everyone was pleased with this successful girl”, as she puts it. Then there came a day when she felt that she could not stay any longer in Australia, and finally decided to return home.
Back in Iran, Azadeh worked as an assistant director to Abbas Kiarostami and Manijeh Hekmat, and made a number of short films which have been screened in several film festivals abroad. But working in the rough-and-tumble of the Iranian cinema eventually took its toll, and once again she decided to change direction. This time though, she seems to have finally found her feet by focusing on the art of photography, about which she is really passionate.
Azadeh has produced several collections of photographs with a variety of themes, including Reflections of Self, Suspension in Tehran, Storytelling, The Passage of Time, and In Praise of Writing. They have been shown in scores of exhibitions in Iran and abroad and have won many awards. But her latest collection, Me as Preferred by Others, is perhaps the closest to her heart.
The project took three years to reach this stage, and she has decided to make it a life-long venture. The development of the idea behind the project was a gradual process based on her personal experience.
She had come to realize over the years that everyone is forced to become a different person vis-à-vis other people. Individuals have to change themselves into the person that ‘others’ want them to be, or that circumstances require. To demonstrate this, she asked different people in diverse locations to choose the way they wanted her to be dressed and then to appear next to her in the photographs.
She chose her subjects from a wide range, including women wearing chadors, fashionable girls in Tehran and Afghan soldiers in Kabul. The result was an imaginative collection of photographs exhibited recently in Tehran.
We can see the entire photographs of this innovative project, as well as a selection from Azadeh Akhlaghi’s previous collections, in this multimedia report.