“The people in Home moved out,” explains Gohar Dashti. “You cannot see them in the photos. But you can feel them.” Tinged with absence and empty of any human traces, the abandoned spaces of Tehran as captured in the Iranian photographer’s body of work Home have been inhabited by new, inanimate residents. Overrun by wilderness, these neglected rooms pay testimony to the consequences of war and displacement. Born during the early years of the Islamic Revolution in Ahwaz—a city close to Iraq—Dashti grew up during the grips of the bloody Iran-Iraq war; an experience that pervades her 15-year-long practice.
Starting from her personal recollections and perceptions, many of Dashti’s projects reach out into the collective, making specific references to the way history and culture make their mark on society. The interplay between displacement and everyday life at home, between the landscape and its inhabitants, the political and the fantastical are often present, delivered always with a hint of the surreal. Many of these themes congregate in Home, where atmospheric, intricately staged scenes speak to the harrowing scars of war, the passing of time, the cycle of history and eventually, the triumph of nature.
Meeting with architects with a particular interest in heritage buildings, the photographer decided to focus not on historical sites but rather on spaces where the inhabitants had been forced to move due to social issues. The idea blossomed on a journey back to her hometown. “I recall wandering around a building that once belonged to my neighbours. They had left during the war, and the house had fallen into disrepair. But, on their veranda, a fern remained,” she explains. “It had flourished in their absence, and its neck now curved against its own weight. It had the power to stay there. Left alone, it would eventually consume and conquer the home.”
Through working in these abandoned sites, Dashti’s intimate memory of her neighbour’s deserted house soon grew into a haunting reflection on the relationship between nature and man. “It’s also about how nature can be political. What happens to the environment when human populations are displaced or destroyed by war? People are transient while nature is a constant; it will be here long after we are all gone.”