Any form of narrative tends to find expression in language. In Gohar Dashti’s Iran, however, the relationship between people is not one of language but one of the body. A group of people in a ditch quietly raise their hands in objection. Another group celebrates a wedding on a carpet that is not a flying carpet. A group of alienated women mourn silently. Young people lie on a mattress, waiting for something to happen. Others seem trapped on a slide. A group, younger still, sits in tub, perhaps waiting to be cleansed by the sunlight. A gathering seems ready for a journey. They look prepared but not hopeful. Soldiers play war-games on the edge of the border-less.

Thus, “Iran, Untitled,” offers a sense of unity of place, which fosters an emerging narrative, but it also implies a place that has lost its locality. Over the course of the pictures, we find only a desert in the middle of nowhere.

The photographer has sprinkled the soil of the land upon the surface of the desert. The horizon on this vast desert slowly flexes up and down, providing air to the people. Dashti has cast such scenes in the midst of this open desert and has fixed her own imagination upon the ground. It is as if her imagination were filled with snapshots of the realities of her country. The snapshots are released in bundles upon the vastness but they don’t recite stories—they whisper.

The heart of the matter lies outside this contraction and that dilation. We do not see the story; we are suspended in it so that we ourselves can make the story. I do not know if Dashti’s photographs give us clues with which to construct the story or if they lead us astray. Dashti’s “desert” is not desolate, nor is our homeland.

—Mehran Mohajer (author & artist)


Dashti’s work is part of an excellent group exhibition at San Francisco Camerawork titled “In Transit” organized by East Wing Gallery curator, Peggy Sue Amison. You can experience this work in person, and participate in a conversation with the artist along with curator on Tuesday, January 29 between 6 - 8 pm. The exhibition also includes stunning and important work by George Awde, Daniel Castro Garcia, Tanya Habjouqa, and Stefanie Zofia Schulz. The show runs through March 15, 2019 in San Francisco, and then travels to San Diego, opening April 18, 2019:

San Francisco Camerawork
San Francisco, California, USA
Running until 15 March 2019

San Diego State University Downtown Gallery
San Diego, California, USA
Opening 18 April 2019