Mashid Mohadjerin

° 1976

Lives in BE, born in Teheran (IR).

Mashid Mohadjerin: silent protests

Mashid Mohadjerin is an Iranian-Belgian photojournalist and visual artist. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 2002. Mohadjerin received the first prize at the 2009 World Press Photo in the Contemporary Issues category with a photo from her 2008 reportage on Lampedusa, where she followed the rescue ships in the Mediterranean. She also won the International Photography Award and the Prix de La Photo.

Besides portraits, Mohadjerin mainly creates photo essays as part of her art practice, focussing on issues such as identity and the human condition. She uses her camera to share her perspective on such issues as migration, minority groups, the socially displaced and communities in transition, ranging from Apartheid in Lebanon, Trafficking in women in Eastern Europe, gun culture in America, refugees in Libya, and young native Americans in Oklahoma. Mohadjerin fled Iran with her parents as a child, moving to Belgium.

Her subjects are topics that bother her. On The Wretched of the Earth by Martinican writer Frantz Fanon and the psychological scars of colonialism, she has the following to say:  

"One wonders whether such a book is still relevant in a post-colonial society. But anger has sometimes become taboo in the leftist and artistic circles I move in."

Over the years, her work has taken Mohadjerin to Central Asia, West Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. It has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, de Standaard Magazine, De Volkskrant, BBC online, Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam, MO Magazine, and Amnesty Journal, among others. Mohadjerin lived in Brussels, Amsterdam and New York but returned to Antwerp in 2012. She teaches photography as a guest lecturer at Narafi (Luca School of Arts, Brussels).

From 2013 until 2016, Mohadjerin conducted artistic research on the role of women activists in the Middle East, photographing objects found on the streets after the protests during the Arab Spring, such as a handmade slingshot with a broken elastic. The item is a silent witness to the tragedy that unfolded.

People are at the centre of all her photos, even though they aren't in them and only feature an object, such as the masks in Protest painted black and Golden dictator from 2013. The first is the sarcastic smiling mask, the symbol of the hacking collective Anonymous. It surfaced in a non-Western context, painted black, with an Arabic inscription against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Mohadjerin contrasts it with the golden mask of President al-Sisi, an army general at the time of the protests, who became president in 2014. Both camps appropriate images for their propaganda. The boundary between the two symbols becomes intriguing and very thin. For example, the eyes are opened in the black mask while they remain closed in the golden one. The revolt of the common man versus the regime. Conflicting symbols.

In 2016, she published her research (KASK) in the form of a book titled Lipstick & Gas Masks. In it, Mohadjerin shows what remained after the press left the scene. She creates images that can hold the slow gaze of a visitor to an art show who stops to look. In any event, slower than the fast-paced images of a war correspondent in the heat of battle. Or, as she says:

"I look for new forms of presentation, and today, I tend to focus much more on slow images that are open to different interpretations."

In 2019, she co-edited the book Textile as Resistance (Hannibal) with journalist Samira Bendadi, a compilation of stories and images relating to migration and conflict. Everything revolves around the medium of textiles, which is often an expression of the identity of the narrators and their resistance to the discrimination, conflict, or transition they find themselves in or are forced into.

In 2021, Freedom is Not Free, the result of doctoral research at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp and the University of Antwerp, was published. This artist's book focuses on the private and public worlds of Iranian women growing up after the 1979 Revolution and on places that held significance in Mohadjerin's childhood. For these women, the political can no longer be separated from the personal - their bodies, their private and public lives were and are still affected by the revolution. In addition to this publication, the research led to two exhibitions at M HKA (Lipstick and Gas Masks and Freedom is not Free).

In 2023, Mohadjerin had a solo show at CC Strombeek with the provocative title Catch Me if You Can. Three videos, connected by an immersive soundtrack, fill the cultural centre's cellar. They are part of a larger, long-term project on rituals, resistance, and the body.


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