Light from the Middle East: New Photography at the V&A
Since getting my V&A membership (£35 a year for students!), the museum has practically become my second home. With dissertations on the go, I’ve spent a fair amount of time browsing the collections for inspiration. However, a girl needs a break from wondering around the same galleries again and again, which is why I’ve come to love free, temporary exhibitions. The V&A’s latest offer is a stunning look at contemporary photography direct from the Middle East, involving 30 artists from North Africa to Central Asia. The show focuses on three specific methodologies, recording, reframing and resisting, and uses them to explore how photography can be used as both observational evidence, and as an unreliable form of documentation, by examining the potential for human interference in both pre or post-production.
I came across several interesting works and I’d be here forever if I went through them all now (keep an eye out for upcoming posts!) So I’ve decided to focus here on the series behind the show’s title image. These three works (more can be seen in the exhibition) are by the Iranian photographer Shadi Ghadirian. The series titled ‘Qajar’ from 1998 consists of portraits of women posing in settings and clothing inspired by the Qajar style of the 19th century. However the props being used to represent the women’s aspirations are distinctly western and modern in character, such as the vacuum cleaner, stereo and Pepsi drink can. The series, therefore, examines the clash of globalisation and tradition in the modern day Middle East by photographically juxtaposing the two.
My advice would be to not overlook this show if you’re visiting the museum. It’s pretty small and doesn’t take too long to look around, so you’d be a fool not to take a look, if only to simply see something new and different in a western museum.