From the series Miss Butterfly (2011)
Fifteen photographs, each 27 ½ x 39 3/8 in. (70 x 100 cm).
Courtesy of the artist.
Miss Butterfly is going to meet the sun; as she is looking for a way out and reaching for the light, she becomes caught in a spider’s web. Moved to compassion after observing Miss Butterfly’s grace and delicacy, the spider comes to an agreement with her. He tells her to bring one of the insects from the dark cellar and tie it up in the spider’s web for him. In turn, the spider will show her the way out and lead her into the light. But after hearing the insects’ stories, Miss Butterfly feels pity for them and eventually returns to the spider empty-handed, with injured wings; and she makes herself caught in the web to be the spider’s food. Impressed by her courage, the spider sets Miss Butterfly free and shows her the way out to meet the sun. Miss Butterfly calls all the other insects in the cellar to share her freedom with them, but she gets no response. She is so frustrated by their reaction that she opens wide her weary wings and flies toward the sun.
Shadi Ghadirian (born 1974, Tehran) received her BA in photography at Azad University, Tehran. She lives in Tehran, where she works at the Museum of Photography; she also serves as photo editor of the Web site Women in Iran (www.womeniniran.com), as well as manager of the first Iranian Web site devoted to photography (www.fanoosphoto.com).
Ghadirian’s photographs epitomize the central dilemma facing Iranian women today: whether to conform to tradition or undertake modernization despite a difficult environment. Yet her work is not only about Iranian women. Ghadirian addresses the issues faced by women around the world—censorship, religious restrictions, the relationship of the individual to the state, and self-fulfillment. Her photographs have been exhibited and recognized on many continents as grasping the challenges experienced by women everywhere.
Since 2000, she has had solo exhibitions at the following venues: Villa Moda, Kuwait, 2002; Al-Ma’mal Foundation, Jerusalem, 2006; French Cultural Center, Damascus, 2006; B21 Gallery, Dubai, 2008; Istanbul Photo Festival, 2008; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2008; Tasveer Gallery, Bangalore, 2008; Aeroplastics Contemporary, Brussels, 2009; Boudin Lebon Gallery, Paris, 2009; CO2 Gallery, Rome, 2009; FCG Gallery, Düsseldorf, 2009; Guild Art, Mumbai, 2010; Queen Gallery, Toronto, 2011; and Silk Road Gallery, Tehran, 2011.
Ghadirian’s work has been included in many significant group exhibitions, among them Iranian Contemporary Art, Barbican Art Center, London, 2001; Regards Persans, Espace Electra, Paris, 2001; Glimpses of Iran, Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, 2002; Harem Fantasies and the New Scheherezades, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, 2003; Veil, New Art Gallery, Walsall; Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool; Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool; and Modern Art, Oxford, all 2003; Moscow Photo Biennale, 2004; Photo Biennale, Luxembourg, 2004; Word into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East, British Museum, London, 2006; Rebelle: Art and Feminism, 1969–2009, Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, 2009; The Seen and the Hidden, Austrian Cultural Forum, New York, 2009; 165 Years of Iranian Photography, Du Quai Branly Museum, Paris, 2009; Iran: Preview of the Past, University of Applied Arts, Vienna, 2010; Idols and Icons, Yavuz Fine Art, Singapore, 2011; and Oi Futuro, Rio de Janeiro, 2011.
Ghadirian’s work is represented in numerous major public collections, including the British Museum, London; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.