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Freedom Is Not Free

Across the Middle East and the rest of the world, historically and today, women have been essential to achieving political change. Without their participation, many revolutions would have failed. My PhD project revolves around the importance of women and the photographic representation and challenges thereof within the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. It culminates in a personal journey to my native Iran in search of my roots and my own story of a revolution.

Inspired by the Arab Uprisings and the overwhelming presence of women within the protests, this research project investigates the influence of representation and photographic images within the context of revolutions and the way it is used on both sides of the political spectrum. I question existing (mis)representations of Muslim, Arab and Middle Eastern women and my aim is to create an alternative representation based on their and my own internal gaze.

Aware of the existing conventions within my practice, which is documentary and portraiture photography, I attempt to depict the struggle and environment of iconic female figures through a multidimensional approach in which I base my image making on intimate conversations. Through archival images and texts, a historical dimension is added in the form of collages. The conversations with activists and critical reflections influence my selection and sequencing process and help me paint a more complex and nuanced narrative. The final result is a personal kaleidoscopic account of women and resistance in the Middle East, North Africa and Iran that interweaves the journalistic and the artistic.

This PhD research resulted in two exhibitions at M HKA ('Lipstick and Gas Masks' and 'Freedom is not Free') and an art-book

Promotors: Johan Pas (Royal Academy of Fine Arts) & Roschanack Shaery (UAntwerp)