‘Beautiful Boy’ is an ongoing series of photographs of my lover. It began as a confession between friends. On the subway one evening, my friend shared that he had worn women’s clothing almost exclusively in college, but after graduation struggled to navigate a world that seemed both newly accepting and yet inherently reviling of male displays of femininity. I thought that photography could provide a space to experiment outside of isolation. Taking the first pictures was an emotional experience, and I connected to his vulnerability. Over time he became my muse and eventually my romantic partner. Soon we began taking photos like addicts, setting up several shoots every weekend.
When taking the photos, I feel the same as when viewing a film where a director and actress share a deep connection to the fantasy captured. It is thrilling to see my partner transform into countless goddess-like forms. The project is a canvas to project our desires. At times the images even become self-portraits. The camera transposes our private experiences into public expression.
Often, I construct sets in my studio. Other times, I seek out locations that feel as if they are sets. I spend a lot of time conceptualizing the costumes, which I piece together from thrift shops, Ebay, and discount fabric outlets. I think it is important that the images not be seamless, but more like an assemblage where you can see the glue, revealing contemporary identity as a collage of the visual language of the past. Although I art-direct the images and come to each shoot with a strong aesthetic intention, my partner inhabits each costume and set in a thoughtful way, embodying the scenario with a sense of openness.
It is important to show his femininity as strength. I want to feel empowered as well, and to have an intimate muse. Together we investigate feminine fantasies presented throughout the history of photography and cinema. The project is a way to ‘step-inside’ images that we have found alluring and examine what it is like to live each scenario out. We explore both our captivation and our ambivalence towards these depictions of femininity. By presenting my partner within the lineage of great beauties and populating the media with our images, we are reclaiming our voice in what is attractive and beautiful.
Redefinition motivates me to create my embroidered x-rays. The stark clash of two such divergent materials, cloth and plastic, is the simple catalyst. One tactile and labor intensive, the other technical, and quickly a finished product. There’s a wide historical context, one ancient, decorative, and artisanal, the other contemporary and devoid of aesthetic intention. By simply placing one of these materials on top of the other the understood purpose of each is redefined.
For me, stitching has a nurturing aspect and acts as care giving or healing to the injured, a socially feminine sort of action, while the x-ray itself can be considered masculine and unemotional. Finally, my own recognition of what is beautiful [these separately became appealing to me at about the same time]. As an artist who takes on tedious, labor-intensive projects, I am also reacting to the ever-increasing presence of photography in contemporary art – by introducing the process of labor over the quick, slickness of film.
“Me, She and the Others” documents women born in Iran after the Islamic Revolution. I have photographed these women in three distinct contexts: (from left to right) at work, at home, and out in society. Despite being obliged to adjust their appearance in certain environments, women remain an influential presence in Iran’s culture.
Gohar Dashti received her M.A. in Photography from the Fine Art University of Tehran in 2005. After studying photography in Iran, she has spent the last 12 years making the large scale of her practice concerning in social issues with particular references to history and culture through a convergence of interest in anthropology and sociology. She tries with her own means to express the world around her. Her starting point is always her surrounding, her memory, but with her very personal perception of things. She tries to trace her relationship to society and the world in it’s most sensitive way. Her practice continuously develops from life events and connection between the personal and the universal, the political and the fantasised.
She has participated in several art residencies and scholarships such as MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH, USA (2017), DAAD award, UdK Berlin, DE (2009-2011); Visiting Arts (1Mile2 Project), Bradford/London, UK (2009) and International Arts & Artists (Art Bridge), Washington DC, USA (2008). She has held various exhibitions around the world, being shown in many museums, festivals and biennales. Her works are in many collections including Victoria and Albert Museum, London (UK), Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (JP), Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston (USA), Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (USA), National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (USA), Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), Chicago (USA) and Kadist Art Foundation, Paris (FR).