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Stark Yet Stylized: Photography by Shirin Neshat

A photograph of a female figure with Arabic writingNida (Patriots), from The Book of Kings series

Ink on LE silver gelatin print 


Photographer and filmmaker Shirin Neshat was born in Iran and now lives and works in New York. The artist’s photographs offer stark yet stylized portrayals of middle-eastern culture.


I enjoy the bold contrast that appears in many of Neshat’s photos. Portraiture factors strongly into the artist’s portfolio. Sometimes she creates straightforward, intense images of individuals, and other times Neshat capitalizes on symbolic spiritual practices and modes of dress to create more complex, conceptually layered images.


A photo of a group of women in burqas walking toward the oceanRapture Series, silver gelatin print


In a series of the portraits, Neshat draws and writes directly onto the printed photograph in black ink, imbuing subjects with imagined tattoos. These ink additions add an extra level of meaning to each of the works, and force the viewer to sit with them for a little longer. Neshat is also well-known for her works of film and performance, in which she elaborates further on the tension between seemingly oppositional concepts like femininity and masculinity, or public life and private life. 


A photo of a group of shadowed figures standing around a treeTooba Series, C-print

About the author

Dallas Jeffs Art Writer

Dallas Jeffs is the Editor of Artist Run Website's blog. They hold a degree in Critical and Cultural Practices from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, as well as a certificate in Technical Writing from BCIT. Dallas has a passion for speaking and writing about art, and sharing that interest with others. In their studio practice they are an illustrator and budding tattoo artist, but they consider themselves a writer foremost. If you like art, books and culture with a science fiction twist, check out Dallas' personal blog, HappySpaceNoises or their art on Instagram.

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