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Artists on Artists | Shirin Neshat on Kaveh Golestan’s Humanistic Portraiture
Monday, March 03, 2014

Since the late ’90s, Shirin Neshat has been lauded for photographs, films and videos that explore the lives of Iranian women. Her first video, “Turbulent” (1998), featured a face-off between a male and a female singer in Islamic Iran, while “Women Without Men,” her 2009 feature film, focuses on the problems experienced by four women during the 1953 coup that brought the last shah to power. More recently, her work has addressed other countries in the Arab Spring, as in “Our House Is on Fire” (at Chelsea’s Rauschenberg Project Space, closing March 1), a group of poignant portraits of ordinary men and women in Cairo, survivors of the Egyptian revolution. “I wanted to humanize the people we think of as the other,” Neshat says.

One of her most powerful influences has been the renowned Iranian photographer Kaveh Golestan, who was killed in 2003 by land mines in northern Iraq while covering the war for the BBC. A veteran of conflicts from the Belfast Troubles to Saddam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds, he won a Robert Capa Gold Medal in 1979 for his coverage of the Iranian revolution. He also pursued his own documentary projects, like the portraits of prostitutes he made from 1975 to 1977 in Tehran’s red-light district, a walled ghetto known as the Citadel of Shahr-e No. These 61 black-and-white prints show the women in every conceivable attitude, from confrontational and preening to dejected and cowering. They are among the few extant photographs of the Citadel, which was burned down by fundamentalists during the revolution, killing many of the women in Golestan’s pictures.

The series hasn’t been shown in public since 1978. But 45 images will soon go on view in “Kaveh Golestan: The Citadel” at the Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam from March 21 to May 4. The full group will appear in “Unedited History: Iran 1960-2014,” at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris from May 15 to Aug. 24.

Source: Time Magazine

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