Shirin Neshat and Shadi Ghadirian are two of the most prominent female Iranian photographers working today. The former lives and works in New York, whereas the latter works for the museum of photography in Tehran. Their work is intrinsically bound with their identity as female Muslims from Iran and therefore shares common themes as well as common means of expression. Through art, Shirin Neshat and Shadi Ghadirian address the role of women in Iran's society and tackle the themes of religion, modernity, the Revolution and violence.
Shirin Neshat was born in Qazvin in 1957 and moved to the United States in 1974. The Revolution prevented her from going back to her home country until the 1990s. In her series of pictures Women of Allah, she photographed herself wearing the chador. Neshat employs Farsi inscriptions, which are often poetic texts, as a means to cover exposed skin in her images. Ghadirian was born in Tehran in 1974 where she lives and works. The present work from Ghadirian is part of a series of photographs representing women dressed in late nineteenth century style against a painted traditional background as if the picture was taken in a photography studio one hundred years ago. She has however added modern 'anomalies', such as the Pepsi-Cola can in the present image.
Neshat and Ghadirian play with juxtapositions and contrasts mirroring the difficulties encountered by Iranian women in today's Iran. Neshat used strong black and white contrasts, high definition and unconventional cropping to give her image a modern look. The clothes, however, of the women and the calligraphy are both traditional Iranian cultural devices. Ghadirian, uses the typical sepia tones that we associate with the first steps of photography, the disruptive element being the Pepsi-Cola can. The juxtaposition of conflicting and dissonant elements such as the veil and the gun, the traditional outfit and the Pepsi-cola can, the poetic writing on the face of these women, as well as the subtlety with which their message is conveyed constitute the strength of these remarkable works.