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)

Editors’ note: We first discovered this series when it was shown at Photo London 2016. In case you missed the fair, head over to our Editors’ Preview of Photo London 2016.