The Burnt Generation

Newsha Tavakolian’s Look.

LONDON – As the title suggests, this superb photographic exhibition at Somerset House, Burnt Generation, treats the dark and tragic side of Iranian modern history. Eight of Iran’s most prominent photographers have captured not just the zeitgeist but also more specific perspectives on the events that have shaped Iranian history in recent times. Somerset House’s minimalist, neo-classical setting is the perfect backdrop for this strong show, allowing the images to breathe and speak for themselves. Cultural consultants Candlestar of Prix Pictet fame (and soon-to-come Photo London in May ‘15) once again bring us an offering that provokes and challenges. As the viewer walks from one room into the next, he is confronted by powerful statements – one more evocative and expressive than the other. It is hard not to be moved by Newsha Tavakolian’s portrayal of subjects and people she has known in her own familiar neighbourhood, from the perspective of her bedroom window; these are the nation’s middle-class youth, alienated in a conformist society and lacking hope for the future.

Shadi Ghadirian’s White Square.

Well-known artist Shadi Ghadirian, on the other hand, places military objects out of context in a domestic space, bringing war into the home in a silent but powerful way. Both these artists have been shown at the British Museum and boast an impressive resume. Azadeh Akhlaghi and Babak Kazemi also address the theme of war, but more directly, through death and images of bullet-marks on house number plates. Poignantly, the work of recently deceased Sadegh Tirafkan addresses the role of the male in traditional Iranian society – an issue that preoccupied him greatly during his short life.

Sadegh Tirafkan’s Body Curves.

While we are not demanded to be sociologists or critics in viewing this show, we are indeed moved by the pictures which, proverbially, speak a thousand words.

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