2015, a photographic series
In the novel Reading Lolita in Tehran, which was my main source of inspiration upon my visit of Tehran, Azar Nafisi, the author, writes about how women of the Islamic Republic of Iran are fantasised: “Not seeing them means denying their existence.”
Fixating someone inside a fantastic projection, an arresting image, from a power position, can be damaging. Humbert, the protagonist of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, is a middle-aged professor who is obsessed with a 12-year-old girl. His fantasy eventually leaves her bereft of life. However, the women artists I met in Tehran have proven the opposite. They tell a story of alert Lolitas, women, who use the fantastic construct that is projected upon them and live their lives, in spite of it, in most creative and self-fulfilling ways. They are powerful citizens active both on public and hidden stages. Yet the fantasy they are framed into is real and so are the risks and constraints. As a female photographer roaming the streets of Tehran and befriending an anonymous male writer, I unintentionally stepped in the shoes of Lolita myself in the pursuit of his portrait. The entire experience made me aware of how dangerous are fantastic projections and how important it is not to be passive in the formation of a self-image. With this series Lolitas of Tehran I take into account multiple perspectives of the fantasy-construction. As a photographer, I attempt to highlight the inherent fantastic bias of the photographic medium itself by contrasting the choice of framing with the obviously elusive presence of the portrayed women.
The series consists of portraits of the local female artists, a self-portrait with the writer, and photographs of the quotes from the book Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.