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Party, a photograph by Amirali Ghasemi
Light from the Middle East

Posted on 03 February 2013, 0:09

Accidentally saw an exhibition of photographs at the V&A this afternoon called Light from the Middle East. It brings together images by photographers in all the Middle Eastern countries, from North Africa to Central Asia, and opens up many of the issues facing people in this region which is so close to the West and yet so culturally distant.

Picking out just a few images which especially struck me…

Party, a series by Amirali Ghasemi (one image is shown above) blanks out the faces and flesh of people at unsanctioned private parties in Tehran. I love the graphic effect of that and the way it effortlessly evokes censorship.

Armed Innocence II by Nermine Hammam is of abashed young soldiers in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the January 2011 protests. Hammam noticed that the soldiers wanted to be anywhere but there, and has placed them in sugary-sweet, postcard-like fantasy settings.

And Gajar by Shadi Ghadirian is a series of stagey portraits in the style of studio shots from the 19th century – but the sitters hold jarringly modern objects: a Pepsi can, a stereo, a mountain bike. Each picture is a little satire on the dilemmas of Iranian women caught between tradition and modern life.

Other images explore Israeli watchtowers, Yemeni immigrant sailors in South Shields and a Kurdish combatant with knives and grenades… and a Bryan Adams t-shirt.

If you’re in South Kensington and have half an hour free, this is a really rewarding exhibition to see.

Light from the Middle East is on until 7 April 2013. Admission is free.

Photo: Party, one of a series by Amirali Ghasemi

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