Zanjir is a conversation imagined between the artist, Amak Mahmoodian and the Persian princess and memoirist, Taj Saltaneh (1883 – 1936). A universal meditation on loss and separation, the book and exhibition draws on imagery from the Golestan archives in Tehran, texts and photographs by Mahmoodian, and excerpts from Taj Saltaneh’s memoirs.
In 2004, Mahmoodian visited the Golestan museum, once home to the Qajars, and to the King’s wives and relatives, in central Tehran to begin work on academic archival research. The photographs in the museum’s archives include those taken between 1860 and 1896 by Nasr al din shah, the King during the Qajar Era, when photography first arrived in Iran. These archival photographs became a cornerstone of Mahmoodian’s project due to the multiple potential interpretations and readings of the imagery. In fact she decided to tell her story through that of others – those who lived in the past and yet their stories still exist in the present. The contemporary photographs in Zanjir were taken between 2002 – 2019, in both Iran and the UK.
Although the project is rooted in Tehran – the Golestan archives and with Mahmoodian’s family – the sentiments in Zanjir are common to many who are separated from family and homeland.
Amak Mahmoodian is an artist born in Shiraz and lives in Bristol, UK. In 2015, she completed a practice-based doctorate in photography at the University of South Wales, having previously studied at the Art University of Tehran. Her work questions Western notions of identity, expressing personal stories that pertain to wider social issues which draws on her experiences in the Middle East, Asia and the West. Her previous project Shenasnameh, was widely exhibited internationally and the accompanying artist photobook won multiple awards and was featured in publications including TIME, Foam magazine and The Guardian amongst others.