Tahmineh Monzavi (born 1988 in Tehran) belongs to the young generation of promising Iranian woman photographers with a body of work that embodies a mature vision along with a unique and comprehensive outlook on the subjects. She received her BA in photography from Azad University but had begun her activities as a documentary photographer prior to that in 2005 when her passionate eye was enthralled by the existing but not quite publicly acknowledged social issues in her hometown, Tehran. Her documentary photographs venture into the underground layers of the city in order to unveil the unseen and the unwanted, hoping to create a deeper awareness of what is shunned upon or seen as taboo through the public eye. In 2009 she made her first documentary film to allow the more expressive medium of film open up new horizons to her creative and critical thinking yet clear traces of her photographic background could be seen in her approach to this new medium.
Monzavi is a socially conscious photographer whose works have been predominantly inspired by variety of topics and subjects of interest from her surrounding environment. The extraordinary diversity seen in her body of work, whether in documentary or stage photography, is a clear indication of her mindfulness and receptivity to a wide range of existing social issues.
From 2007-2008 she worked on a venturous project called “Guilty or innocent” which focused on number of transsexuals, living in the ghettos of capital city; a subject that is not only considered taboo from the country’s religious point of view but also challenges the established traditional and cultural beliefs of populace. The harsh living condition, drug abuse and prostitution are the basic facts that shape the everyday reality of this small community. It is the photographer’s neutrality and her nonjudgmental approach that allows her subjects to reveal their true identity in the presence of her camera. She provides the viewer with the chance to follow the footsteps of the subject and see his or her experiences as intertwined combination of grotesque and normal daily challenges; having been viewed in a different light consequently allows further exploration of preconceptions and prejudices toward one’s fixed social beliefs.
Around the same time she began work on a series that although lacked the controversial, taboo quality of her previous work yet the two series shared a certain subtle conceptual similarity. “Brides of Mokhber al-Dowleh” which was a 2 year project, took on a fresh new approach that turned an ordinary, everyday reality of a working class community which went unnoticed till then, into an evocative subject for the intellect. The series portrays the bridal gown tailors in south Tehran; workers from deprived social classes whose poor work condition testify to their meager livelihood. The mind provoking juxtaposition of the beautiful, elegant and dreamed of white dresses from the feminine world, sewn and stitched by the rough, masculine hands of working class men, sparks an interpretative reaction in any viewer. The series distinguishing quality lies with its wide spectrum of problems it addresses which could perhaps be the reason behind the series success with both the viewers and the critics.
Monzavi is known for execution of exceptionally lengthy projects. She believes working in long intervals provides the opportunity to develop a deeper and closer relationship with her subject while it also gives her the chance to study her subject from different angles in their surrounding environments.
In 2008 a different social issue captured Monzavi’s attention. “Grape garden alley” is an extensive series shot over a period of 4 years, revolving around women addicts, staying at a rehab facility in south Tehran. Once again the photographer toils to unveil another tragic social reality that is either ignored or denied by the authorities. Having served a one month prison sentence Monzavi took a year of; “a period of coming to terms with an altered perception” as she put it. Naturally, the first project that followed was her first ever experience with stage photography “All about me, Nicknamed Crown giver” focuses on her deep feelings of womanhood and the feminine dreams bounded within a run-down masculine structure.
Although a young artist; Monzavi has attained significant achievements over the years. In 2011 she received the prestigious “Sheed Award”; an independent, non-profit social and documentary photography award with internationally renowned photographers as the panel of judges. Her works have also been published by number of reputable magazines such as “Internazionale”, “British Journal of photography”, “Le Figaro”, “L’oeil de la photographie”,”Elle”; they have also been featured in a few photography books like, “La Photographie Iranienne- published by LOCO”, “Iran unedited history 1960-2014” published by Muse D’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris. Her photographs have also been demonstrated in some museums around the world such as "Modern Art Museum of Paris”, "Literature Museum of Giorgia" and “ LACMA’”, “Maxxi museum of Roma”.
Monzavi’s works have received extensive international exposure and have been exhibited in many group as well as solo exhibitions in Tehran, Amsterdam, Vienna, Boston, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Boston and South Korea and have been held in high esteem by eminent figures in photography as well as critics. Monzavi is a promising young artist whose work reveals taboos and stereotypes in Iran and Afghanistan through the images of younger women and marginalized people in a rather explicit way.