Iranian born Shirin Neshat started her career with her acclaimed Women of Allah series, a black and white depiction of women in veils carrying guns with the surface of their skin covered in Persian calligraphy. Through the medium of photography, she explored the mutation that took place in Iran after the Revolution and questioned women's freedom and their will to surrender in a fundamentalist and religious society. In 1998, Neshat began experimenting with video installations and films and produced the trilogy Turbulent, Rapture and Fervor, where she referred, in a poetic way, to the gender related issues in an Islamic regime.
Women without men is her first feature-film, which has gained recognition internationally as the artist was awarded with the Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival in 2009 and the film was launched in major festivals and institutions around the world, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2010. It is part of a broader project which includes five video installations and a series of photographs.
Based on the 1989 surrealistic novel by Iranian author Shahrnush Parsipur, Women without men narrates the lives of four Iranian women during the summer of 1953, when the American backed coup d'état overthrew the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and restored the Shah to power. Through the use of allegory and poetry, Neshat evokes the inner lives of four women in peril and despair, each of whom is trying to escape from the political, social and cultural tyranny in a mysogynist society and is struggling for freedom. The women's dilemmas are paralleled with the nation's fight for democracy and independence.
This outstanding portrait, titled Faezeh & Amir Khan evokes Neshat's exploration of gender issues through the metaphorical dualities of the male/female relationship alongside those of Eastern/Western cultures. Faezeh is hoping to marry Amir Khan, the brother of Munis who herself is a character in the film. In this beautiful photograph, Faezeh and Amir Khan stand next to each other, facing the viewer. The innocence and despair of the female figure is opposed to the dark and harsh appearance of the male. Through the use of Persian calligraphy, Shirin Neshat reflects her attachment to her homeland, and is perhaps hinting to the future ahead of Faezeh, as she will return triumphantly back to the city and will walk away from oppression and judgement.
Faezeh & Amir Khan is one of the finest photographs from the Women without Men series, in which Shirin Neshat portrays the cultural and political spirit of her homeland, Iran.