Gohar Dashti Explores the Complexities of Time

An Interview with the Iranian Photographer

Today’s Life and War, Photography by Gohar Dashti

Gohar Dashti is a visual storyteller from Iran. Her photography features the Iranian socio-cultural vista, how it affected a generation of the Iranian population and moulded their livelihood. A war-ravaged society, torn by conflicts and even natural calamities, provides a grim background for her photographic essays.

But life marches on nonetheless. And, as shown in ‘Today’s Life and War’, perseverance and determination succeed in the end. Here is a story of a young talent whose ability to defy the odds ignite the hope of many others of her generation. It inspires them ‘to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’.

Gohar Dashti was born in 1980, Ahvaz, Tehran. She currently lives and works in Tehran, Iran. Gohar completed MA in Photography from the Art University of Tehran in 2005. For her work, she received a fellowship from DAAD, Berlin (2009 – 2011). Her work has been exhibited worldwide including in White Project Gallery, Paris, France, 2012; Grimmuseum, Berlin, Germany, 2012; Centre d’art Passerelle, Brest, France, 2010; Hillyer Art Space, Washington DC, 2008 and closer to home at Silk Road Gallery, Tehran, 2011 to name a few. Currently, Gohar’s visual narratives are on display at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, US (27th August – 12th January, 2014).

Family Albums, Photography by Gohar Dashti
Family Albums

Tell us of your childhood influences that helped in the development of your ever curious creative mind. When did you first feel the yearning of becoming a visual storyteller and thus learn the nuances of photography?

I started taking photographs back in school. While studying graphic design in college, I took a few courses in photography. Right then I decided to pursue either filmmaking or photography. So I switched my major to photography and finished my bachelor and master’s degrees from Tehran Art University.

Playing with complexities of time, being both in the past and the present which affected me deeply helps to incorporate a degree of neurosis into my photography. This has convinced me to use photography as a means to produce art.

I think of photography is just a medium like painting or film. It does not matter which medium you choose, what matters is how you use that medium to relate your experiences to your surroundings.

Today’s Life and War, Photography by Gohar Dashti
Today’s Life and War

As someone who experienced the trauma of war in her own life, how do you see your own feelings of pathos permeating into the making of, ‘Today’s Life and War’?

The main idea behind this series goes back to my childhood. I was born in Ahvaz, a city near the border with Iraq. My family and I lived in Ahvaz throughout the wartime between Iran and Iraq. I have a lot of memories from that period which are, in fact, group memories shared by an entire generation and I wanted to portray this common experience, so I started a research project on the effects of war on young people. This culminated in, ‘Today’s Life and War’.

Me, She, Others, Photography by Gohar Dashti
Me, She, Others

Quoting William Shakespeare from Hamlet we may say, ‘Clothes maketh the man’. In the context of your work, ‘Me, She and Others’ as the outfit changes how does the person inside alter?

The project titled, ‘Me, She, and the Others’ is a documentary of the clothing of that I and the other women born after the Islamic Revolution in Iran wear.

I intended to show that generation of Iranian women displays multiple sides of their life and style in their daily existence.

I photographed women in three situations (left to right: at the workplace, the indoors, and in the society). These women are forced to change their appearance in accordance with the social environment they find themselves in to be a part of it. Yet, they do have an influential presence in society.

I have shown several women who look at themselves in the mirror every day, much like I myself see me in the mirror every day before I leave home and go somewhere either shopping or work etc.

Whenever I want to take a new form of appearance in accordance to any public area a thought strikes me that I do not have any control over this issue.

Slow Decay, Photography by Gohar Dashti
Slow Decay

Tell us about the genesis of your project ‘Slow Decay’.

‘Slow Decay’ does not convey a simple, direct intention. As such, this series does not refer to a particular issue: different layers are at work. It may point out the slow decay of the kind of pain that has formed quietly around life without influencing it. It does not even refer to a particular point in time. Blood spots, too, have various symbolic meanings. Each image tells a different story and I’ve left to the viewer to think and form his or her own opinion from experiences of pain with these pictures.

It does not matter which medium you choose, what matters is how you use that medium to relate your experiences with your surroundings.

You now get the opportunity of showcasing your work and also participate in various fora across the world. How important do you feel these cultural exchanges are in your own growth as an artist and also in the encouragement of young talents from your country?

Several of my experiences from participating in international programs have taught the importance of learning and sharing. I am often asked to talk about the relationship between political and social issues and how it relates to my work. With regards to these types of question, I normally try understanding a foreign artist’s approach towards Iranian art. On the other hand, I would like to learn more about other country’s art, its aspects and developments. It is a great chance for all us who take part in such gathering to spread their knowledge and get more experience from others through these interactions.

Volcano, Photography by Gohar Dashti
Portrait of Gohar Dashti

Gohar Dashti prefers…

Gohar Dashti is represented by Kaysha Hildebrand Gallery in Zurich. She also participates in such lectures and seminars across the globe as in Archive Connections National Media Museum, Bradford, UK, 2011; Centre Atlantique de la Photographie, Quartz, Brest, France, 2009; Roundtable discussion, The Philip Collection Museum, Washington DC, US, 2008.

Find more of her work at her website.

Image Courtesy: Gohar Dashti