After a month of imprisonment, Tahmineh Monzavi’s vision altered. She began examining her surroundings and her society differently. After a year-long absence from photography, she began “All about me; nicknamed Crown-Giver,” in which she uses a beauty pageant as a visual metaphor. The series comments on the female role in Iranian society, as well as its effect on their dreams. Similar to the mood of photographs themselves, Monzavi describes her work in an imaginative, surreal tone:

Surrounded by dusty decadence, forgotten and rusty, crowned women convey a lacklustre nightmare within a damp house. I search for familiar signs in the strangeness of the faces. They want to get far away. Like these very same old brass crowns, they are a remote sign of what they have once been. The houses in Grape Garden Alley, the houses of dust. The aristocratic houses buried in the doll faces, dust covered memories, and suspicious looking.

Miss Beauties run to prove their merits, and their unsuccessful effort is to win the lost rank of beauty and vanity. Life becomes a chair; it becomes a stare; it becomes staring at their whirling, and a sneer and a chortle that there is always one chair short for the best ones. There is always someone who fails in occupying the chair, and she falls apart.

In the real world, Miss Beauties appear on the stage to display their best in a predefined framework, in an imposed space, with a beaming smile, with a doll-like face devoid of their inner feelings. The individuality of these girls is castrated and the portrayal of the appearance is the sole element of their attraction.

The way Miss Beauties are chosen seems somehow similar to our childhood game. Whoever sits on the chair faster deserves the loftiest status.

Regarding the hidden capabilities of every woman in society to be one of the chosen, and disregarding looks, culture, and even social class, meritorious Iranian girls and women can be easily witnessed in the city’s pavements and squares.

—Tahmineh Monzavi