Damon is from Iran. He is an asylum seeker in Australia. He is currently “in the system” to be processed for a permanent resident visa. The current immigration laws in Australia have severely narrowed the opportunities for resettlement. Therefore, his status is uncertain, this causes anxiety and a sense of insecurity. Plans cannot be made for the future, as it is unclear if he can remain in this country.
Damon left his home three years ago, in a bid to escape the repressive Islamist state that is modern day Iran. Nearly all forms of self-determination, non-conforming sexuality and freedom of expression are restricted. In Iran, Damon worked in a large advertising firm as a staff photographer. He has developed a lifetime of skills, both in the commercial market and in his own personal work as a photographer. All visual artists in Iran face severe censorship of their work. Many have been imprisoned for the content of their work.
Most individuals lead a dual existence between the private and the public space they inhabit. The life of the ‘interior’ as a physical and psychological space is well established and contrasts sharply to the ‘exterior’ space of hostility and danger.
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the legal system has been under Islamic Shari ‘a law. All sexual relations that occur outside a traditional, heterosexual marriage are illegal. No legal distinction is made between a consensual or non-consensual sexual contact. LGBTI relations that occur between consenting adults in private are a crime and carry a maximum punishment of death. Transgender people are routinely gender reassigned with Government financial support and then ‘reinstated’ back into a heteronormative environment.
In this context the images created with Damon take on a symbolic significance. The concept of masking identity and sexuality is a daily practice in Iran. The images capture this sense of forbidden almost fetishistic desire, a deeply transgressive stance. As much as they are about repression, they also contain a sense of powerful protest and exaltation; in that the images exist at all is miraculous.