Exhibition of Portraits of Iranian Women after Unveiling
Men Are Not Allowed
Translated by Roya Monajem
An exhibition of portraits of Iranian Women after removal of obligation of wearing chador under the reign of Pahlavi I, titled Before Your Eyes was held in May 2011 at No.6 Gallery in Tehran. The collection was compiled and reproduced by Parisa Mandan, photographer, researcher and teacher.
The displayed works make up a part of the photographs Parisa Mandan revived during her project of finding and collecting photo archives of old photographers of the city of Esfahan from 1991 to 2000.
As a part of her research, she reproduced photo glasses of the photography studios of Mirza Mehdi Khan Chehreh Nama’, Gholamhosseyn Derakhshan, Abolqasem Jala (calling his studio Sharq) and of Minas Pa’t Kerhanian and others, and prepared them for publication.
The displayed photographs were a part of the above collection which did not receive the required permit for publication, but were allowed to be shown at an exhibition held exclusively for women.
They are all portraits which as mentioned in the catalogue of the exhibition show “Women in the studio, acting the poses and gestures their male photographers instructed. Though they appear yielding, nevertheless it is evident that going to a photography studio and sitting in front of the camera must have been according to their own personal will and decision, thus the choice of their outfits and make- up must have been according to their own conscious choice too.
Photographs as Historical Documents
The photos can be looked upon as a document of social status of women during the transition period of transfer of power from the Qajar to Pahalavi. Considering the style of hair dressing and self-chosen outfit of women in these photos, one can assume that most were taken during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi.
It seems in that period, graceful, serene tender poses devoid of violence were preferred. Softy curved hands, arms touching the body and feet close to each other, in some cases hand under the chin in a sitting or recline position were among current postures. Tame women in the way men love.
Recordings of the Camera
There are several very interesting points in the 22 photos displayed at this exhibition: Most women have curled their short hairs with the kind of hairdressing instruments prevalent at the time, all wear mostly white thick stockings, with high hilled shoes differing very little. In some photos they have the kind of eyebrows fashionable under the Qajar, extremely wide and long with or without woad (traditional eyebrow liner).
Their dresses are usually so thin that their underwear and handmade bras can be seen. This shows that it is the period when lining and priming was not fashionable yet. In one or two photos their dresses are quite transparent. One can see that there have been women in that period too who wished to have their photos taken with dresses different from the rest, or maybe some of these photographs, with inviting poses were taken for definite purposes.
There are a few photos showing women in a place other than a photography studio. Here they are mostly seen next to their family or their husbands with more natural poses. In a satirical photo, a man and a woman have dressed up like a dervish and sa’qi (bartender) and in one, a very beautiful woman with gorgeous body, may be a foreigner is seen wearing a short nightgown sitting leisurely on an armchair next to a clean bed, smiling. In another photo a woman is seen wearing a swimming suit of the type fashionable in Europe in those days, though at the same time wearing long stockings with a long lace covering her shoulders.
In some photos, women are seen next to dolls. For example, in one of them is a toy-dog like those pet dogs French women had in those days and in another photo a woman is seen with several foreign made dolls next to her.