Amak Mahmoodian

Visual Artist

© Shenasnameh (2007-2010) by Amak Mahmoodian

Amak mahmoodian is a visual artist, born in Shiraz, now living in Bristol, UK. Amak specialises in documentary photography and uses poetry, photography, and archives to explore identity and home.

In her project ‘Shenasnameh’, which is the official Iranian birth certificate's name. It comprises basic information as well as an image of the individual it identifies. It is valid for a lifetime, however the photograph included within it must be changed to meet current requirements. The production of this image is a personal experience for a woman in Iran; her hair must be covered according to government norms, and any excess of make-up will be greeted with official disapproval. This project resulted in a photobook, that was displayed in the style of a journal and passport.

The project began in 2007 whiles she was waiting in a reception room, holding her mothers and her own birth certificates. Her gaze constantly began to shift from the photograph of her mother to the photograph of herself. Amak suddenly realised what these photographs represented, what they displayed and what they didn't reveal. Despite their disagreements, Amak and her mother were fused into one person. She resembled her mother, and her mother resembled her. But it went further than that. She suddenly realised that all Iranian women were forced to appear the same, with plain features hidden by hairless scarves.

Amak's investigations required her to investigate identification commonalities rather than how diverse the females around her were. Because most girls in her culture wear headscarves and appear identical, she was curious about what distinguishes them as unique.

Through my final major project, The Hijab Diaries, where I break the negative misconceptions and myths of Muslim women who wear the hijab. Amak was a huge inspiration for my work ethic. Significantly from her project ‘Dastan’, where she videoed women in Tehran who informed Amak about who they are in their own words… words in voice and in silence. Their conversation was light heartened, they were not actors playing their parts; they lived them. This concept applies to The Hijab Diaries, as the Muslim women I photographed was not playing parts, they were living them. Having interviews with the Muslim women allowed me to portray their true self and feeling applied to the image. They are all full of confidence and strength, which I emphasise throughout my photography with bold and forceful faces and stances. I told each model I photographed to be themselves and do whatever they wanted via various actions and expressions.

© Dastan (2010) by Amak Mahmoodian