2020 #5

Tehran Diary

by Parisa Aminolahi

Selected by
Daria Tuminas,
Curator at FOTODOK

Tehran Diary 08

Selected by Daria Tuminas,
Curator at FOTODOK

“We need more stories about relationships between women. This one – about the bond between the artist and her mother, separated by a whole continent – is very special.“ - Daria Tuminas

How to maintain the family unit when entire continents lie between parents, children, and siblings is an issue facing many people. Regardless of whether this distance is the result of opportunity or a matter of survival, the separation fundamentally changes the rhythms of family life. Parisa Aminolahi and her siblings are part of a generation of Iranians who have left their homeland in search of a different life; her mother is part of the generation left behind. In a society where support for the elderly is a family rather than a state issue and where it’s common to live with one’s parents well into adulthood, this separation has a practical as well as emotional impact.

For Aminolahi and her mother, Photography has become part of the rhythm of their relationship, along with the arduous visa applications and days spent in transit. Aminolahi’s ongoing series Tehran Diary is a product of this time spent together and apart, as the artist documents her mother’s life in Tehran and visiting her three children overseas. Reviewing the photographs together extends the moments depicted, as do the layers of paint Aminolahi later adds to the images. When asked about this decision, she explains ‘I had this sense that something wanted to burst out of the photos, that some extra scenery or ornaments were needed to create the world I was searching for.’

Indeed, the addition of the paint brings an air of ambiguity to the photographs; no longer the product of a specific time and place, they come closer to the realm of feeling. The images are made fluid, with brush strokes creating the impression of movement and giving weight to the fog of an early evening or the light falling through a bedroom window. It is the very closeness of the relationship between Animolahi and her mother that allows her to make these images, creating a sense of intimacy without invading the family’s privacy.

This can be a thin line for artists who take their lives and families as subject matter, but is a dilemma that Aminolahi has managed to avoid. ‘I can’t tell if this is due to an unintended self-censorship or simply because I’m naturally drawn to those photos that have a general story to tell, something that everyone can relate to.’ This is a personal narrative influenced by the undercurrents of Iran’s political landscape, but the resulting dreamlike snapshots resonate well beyond the specifics of one family and their circumstances.

Text by Ish Doney.

One of Parisa Aminolahi’s earlier works, My Beautiful Iranian Childhood will be on display at FOTODOK, Utrecht, until 23 February as part of the group exhibition ‘Joint Memory: Photographic Fragments’. To meet the artist in person, join the event ‘Remembering Across Cultures’ for an evening of food, artist presentations, and informal conversation, taking place at FOTODOK on 13 February.

Read more (2 min read)

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Photo of Tehran Diary by Parisa Aminolahi

Parisa Aminolahi

Amsterdam, NL

Parisa Profile Picture

Parisa Aminolahi

Amsterdam, NL

Parisa Aminolahi (b. 1978, Tehran) is a freelance filmmaker, photographer and painter who has been based in the Netherlands since 2008. She studied theatre stage design (BA) and animation (MA) at the University of Art in Tehran and documentary filmmaking (MA) at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her work covers a spectrum of themes such as displacement, exile, homeland, family and childhood memories, utilising childhood and old family photographs, self-portraits and her own family members as her subjects. Her mediums range from photography, documentary filmmaking, animation, painting and mixed media. She is a grant recipient of The Netherlands Film Fund, One World Media Student Film Bursary, the Chevening Scholarship and has had screenings and exhibitions in Armenia, Australia, Canada, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

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