Tahmineh Monzavi, born in 1988 in Tehran, is a socially conscious photographer. She began her professional career as a documentary photographer in 2005.
In 2007-2008 with the series Guilty or innocent Tahmineh started to explore the ghettos of Tehran and the hidden from the public eye life of the transsexuels. A subject that is not only considered taboo from the country’s religious point of view but also challenges the established cultural norms. The harsh living conditions, drug abuse and prostitution are the basic facts that shape the daily reality of the small community. The combination of the grotesque and the normal shifts the preconceptions and prejudices and allows a chance for a social reconciliation.
The series of photographs Brides of Mokhber al-Dowleh of the same period explore a different subject, that of the ordinary life of the working class community. Tahmineh portrays the bridal gown tailors in south Tehran; workers from deprived social classes whose poor work conditions testify to their meager livelihood. The juxtaposition between the beautiful white of the wedding dresses, the apotheosis of the traditional female dreams, and the rough hands of the working class men doing the sewing and stitching provokes feelings of wonder and contemplation.
Another tragic social reality, that is usually either ignored or denied by the authorities, captured Monzavi’s attention in 2008. Grape garden alley is an extensive series, shot over a period of 4 years, that is dedicated to women addicts, who stay in a rehabilitation facility in south Tehran.
In 2013 Monzavi’s outlook on her work was changed after a month of imprisonment in Tehran. In the absence of human contact she started to doubt her existence. In that dark hour of forced isolation Tahmineh was desperate for a company and started to fantasize being pregnant, which resulted in the video art piece OXYS in black and white.
A year after the event, she produced the series All About Me: Nicknamed Crown Giver. It shows a strange fantasy realm where every woman is crowned Miss Iran. Her inspiration comes from an old beauty pageant, Spring Girl, held in Iran from 1965 to 1978, just before the revolution and its restrictions took hold. Almost forty years later and Iran is in the top ten countries for cosmetic surgery. To be Miss Iran or ‘the most beautiful girl’ of any country is an absurd notion for a young girl, it creates a world where appearance is everything. As an artist Tahminieh is looking for a way to objectify this desire and renegotiate its context through the artistic practice.
In the recent years Tahmineh Monzavi has been captivated by the ruins of the historical architecture of Iran and Afghanistan. In the series Past Continuous the artist is documenting the post-war shift in the perception of home and heritage.
In 2018 Tahmineh started a new photography series Red Soil, Cold Soil, which offers a fascinating contrast of colours and textures of two completely different regions of the world, an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf and a Norwegain archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Hormuz island in the south of Iran and the world’s northernmost settlement Longyearbyen in Svalbard are both located in areas of high political tension, but for the artist it was an encounter with the mysterious nature that initiated a deep desire for the exploration of the dramatic landscapes and the everyday life of the islands inhabitants.
Tahmineh Monzavi received the Sheed Award for excellence in social documentary photography (independent non-government award with internationally renowned photographers as the panel of judges). Her works have been exhibited nationally and internationally: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), MAXXI museum of Roma, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and many others.
Tahmineh Monzavi is also known as a film director and producer. Sometimes her photography and film work merge into continuous subject of artistic exploration. For example, the Grape garden alley series in 2010-2012 developed into a feature length documentary film about a shelter for addicted women in Tehran. As a co-director Tahmineh received international recognition with the film About the Salesman (2018) which won two trophies for the Best Actor and Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2017.
Tahmineh Monzavi lives and works in Tehran. She is represented by galerie Eric Dupont, Paris.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
Red Soil, Cold soil, Silkroad gallery, Tehran, Iran.
Past continuous, Silkroad gallery, Tehran, Iran.
All about me, Nicknamed Crown Giver, The Public House of Art, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Past continuous, Hinterland gallery, Vienna, Austria.
All about me, Nicknamed Crown Giver, Silkroad Gallery, Tehran, Iran.
Review of Tahmineh Monzavis's Artworks, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, USA.
Mokhber al-Dowleh's Brides, Silkroad Gallery, Tehran, Iran.
Selected Group Exhibitions
In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art, LACMA, USA.
OXYS in black and white, Screening international video-art of the XXI century, MACRO, Italy.
International Women Photography Award exhibition, Alliances Française, Paris, France.
Guardi Iraniani, Bellinzona, Switzerland.
Collection of Sammlung Verbund, Vienna, Austria.
A Room of One’s Own” leica gallery, Istanbul
Video screening “ OXYS in black and white “ Gallery Artă-Reperaj. Romania
Museum of Modern Art of Tbilisi (MOMA Tibilisi), Georgia
“Iran 38” Arles
Re-Action, Gijón Museum, Spain.
“my private world“This was ashow on photography at the Vertikale Galerie of the SAMMLUNG VERBUND , Vito Acconci, Cecil Beaton, Tom Burr, Gilbert & George, Symrin Gill, Nan Goldin, Peter Hujar, Louise Lawler, Urs Lüthi, Tahmineh Monzavi, Adam Rzepecki, Jeff Wall, Gillian Wearing, James Welling in Sammlung Verbund Gallery, Vienna,
Photo london, Robert Klien gallery
Unedited History. Iran 1960-2014, MAXXI Museum, Rome, Italy.
Unedited History. Iran 1960-2014, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France.
Dance of the Seven Veils, Side by Side Gallery, Berlin, Germany.
A requiem for a Desolation, Hinterland Gallery, Vienna, Austria.
Iranian photography, Milles Gallery, Sydney, Australia.
Burning down the house, 10th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea.
Dance of the veil, Side by Side Gallery, Berlin, Germany.
A view of documentary photography in Iran 1987-2013, Silkroad Gallery, Tehran, Iran.
OXYS in black and white, nomad exhbition, Milan, Italy - Syros, Greece.
Grape Garden, Nights of Photography, Giorgi Leonidze Museum, Tbilisi, Georgia.
Alternative Histories, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK.
A Selection of Young, Talented Iranian Photographers, Silk Road Gallery, Tehran, Iran
Tehran: Documentary Photographs from the Last 40 Years, Arran Gallery, Tehran, Iran.
Bild in Bild, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.