Tahmineh Monzavi, born in 1988 in Tehran, is a socially conscious photographer. She began her professional career as a documentary photographer in 2005. In her professional life, with collection of photographs and her harmonious approach to her environment and her time, Tahmineh created her own style to capture and explore in the fields of Artistic and Documentary photography, with honesty and fearlessness.
In 2007-2008 with the series Guilty or innocent Tahmineh started to explore the ghettos of Tehran and the hidden from the public eye life of the transsexuals and homeless women. A taboo that challenges the established cultural norms. The harsh living conditions, drug abuse and prostitution are the basic facts that shape the daily reality of the small community. The combination of the grotesque and the normal shifts the preconceptions and prejudices and allows a chance for a social reconciliation.
The series of photographs Brides of Mokhber al-Dowleh of the same period explore a different subject, that of the ordinary life of the working-class community. Tahmineh portrays the bridal gown tailors in south Tehran; workers from deprived social classes whose poor work conditions testify to their meager livelihood. The juxtaposition between the beautiful white of the wedding dresses, the apotheosis of the traditional female dreams, and the rough hands of the workingclass men doing the sewing and stitching provokes feelings of wonder and contemplation.
Another tragic social reality, that is usually either ignored or denied by the authorities, captured Monzavi’s attention in 2008. Grape garden alley is an extensive series, shot over a period of 4 years, that is dedicated to women addicts, who stay in a rehabilitation facility in south Tehran.
In 2012 Monzavi’s outlook on her work was changed after a month of imprisonment in Tehran. In the absence of human contact, she started to doubt her existence. In that dark hour of forced isolation Tahmineh was desperate for a company and started to fantasize being pregnant, which resulted in the video art piece OXYS in black and white.
A year after the event, she produced the series All About Me : Nicknamed Crown Giver. It shows a strange fantasy realm where every woman is crowned Miss Iran. Her inspiration comes from an old beauty pageant, Spring Girl, held in Iran from 1965 to 1978, just before the revolution and its restrictions took hold. Almost forty years later and Iran is in the top ten countries for cosmetic surgery. To be Miss Iran or ‘the most beautiful girl’ of any country is an absurd notion for a young girl, it creates a world where appearance is everything. As an artist Tahmineh is looking for a way to objectify this desire and renegotiate its context through the artistic practice.
In the recent years Tahmineh Monzavi has been captivated by the ruins of the historical architecture of Iran and Afghanistan. In the series Past Continuous the artist is documenting the post-war shift in the perception of home and heritage.
In 2018 Tahmineh started a new photography series Red Soil, Cold Soil, which offers a fascinating contrast of colours and textures of two completely different regions of the world, an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf and a Norwegain archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Hormuz island in the south of Iran and the world’s northernmost settlement Longyearbyen in Svalbard are both located in areas of high political tension, but for the artist it was an encounter with the mysterious nature that initiated a deep desire for the exploration of the dramatic landscapes and the everyday life of the Islands inhabitants.
Tahmineh Monzavi received the Sheed Award for excellence in social documentary photography (independent non- government award with internationally renowned photographers as the panel of judges). Her works have been exhibited nationally and internationally: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), MAXXI museum of Roma, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and many others.
Her works have also been published by number of reputable magazines such as “Newyork times”, “Internazionale”, “Parismatch”, “British Journal of photography”, “Le Figaro”, “L’oeil de la photographie”,”Elle”; they have also been featured in a few photography books like, “La Photographie Iranienne- published by LOCO”, “Iran unedited history 1960-2014” published by Muse D’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris , “Iran 38” by Texuel edition.
Tahmineh Monzavi is also known as a film director and producer. Sometimes her photography and film work merge into continuous subject of artistic exploration. For example, the Grape garden alley series in 2010-2012 developed into a feature length documentary film about a shelter for addicted women in Tehran. As a co-director. She had an important interview in this film with Jean Cloud Carrier. Tahmineh received international recognition with the film About the Salesman (2018) , A film about a film which won two trophies for the Best Actor and Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2017.