Azadeh Akhlaghi

Gardner Photography Fellow 2019

Akhlaghi is an Iranian photographer and filmmaker working with conceptual and staged photography to examine events in the history of Iran. Her previous work By an Eyewitness examined a series of deaths of prominent figures in Iran— including poets, writers, politicians, activists, and students—leading to the Islamic revolution of 1979; events that were never photographed. In a heavily researched body of work, Akhlaghi creates large scale (huge didn’t sound quite right) montages that restage these key moments in a fusion of obvious fiction and performative realism. As anthropologist and art historian Christopher Pinney notes, “she deploys photography to illuminate key questions concerning national and personal histories, visual memory and evidence, and ultimately the manner in which humans construct their histories.”

For the fellowship year, Akhlaghi will be working on the post-production of 15 new images along with documentation and research for The Vicious Circle (working title), a project that focuses on 11 incidents from the period of the Constitutional Revolution of 1908 to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The result will be a manuscript for a book that will combine the 15 new photo event stagings with archival photographs, documents, and witness interviews. Azadeh Akhlaghi was born in Shiraz (1978) and grew up in Mashhad, Iran. She graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in the field of computer science. Since 2000 her passion, however, has been photography. After leaving Australia she resettled in Iran and worked as assistant director with the acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami between 2005 and 2008. She also made several short films that were screened at film festivals in Oslo, Pusan, and Berkeley Art Museum. In 2009 her interest shifted to staged photography. Azadeh was a Sovereign Arts Prize Finalist in 2016, and was a recipient of the prize from the UN-Habitat Photography Competition 2009, London. Azadeh has participated in numerous art exhibitions and biennales such as the Contemporary Photography Museum, Chicago; Somerset School of Art in London; the Paris Photo, Shanghai and Seoul Biennials; Photo London; the Contemporary Museum of Art, Tehran; and the Ulrich Museum, Wichita, Kansas.