Q&A: Ramak Bamzar – Empowering Change Through Photography
Ramak Bamzar (born. 1980) is an Iranian-born visual artist and fine art photographer based in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia. Her work explores how cultural and religious norms can shape women's beliefs, values, and behaviours and influence their sense of self-worth and agency.
What was it like growing up in Iran?
Growing up in Iran right after the Islamic Republic revolution of 1979, my experience can best be described as a perpetual struggle against tension, control, and gender inequality. I state this without any exaggeration. Yet, I was fortunate to be raised in a family that didn't enforce any of these restrictions.
This stark contrast led to numerous unanswered questions from my early childhood. Outside the safety of our home, we had to wear a mask, metaphorically and literally, to conformed to the Islamic ideology, as failing to do so could have serious consequences.
For the uninitiated, give us a glimpse of women’s rights in Iran, and what is going on in the women’s rights movement there.
With the establishment of the Islamic Republic restrictive laws and conservative interpretations of Islamic principles stifled women's rights. The compulsory hijab, requiring women to cover their hair and dress modestly in public, is a visible symbol of these restrictions.
Women's rights in Iran are characterised by legal restrictions and societal expectations rooted in conservative interpretations of Islam. Despite these challenges, Iranian women continue to engage in activism and advocacy, striving for greater equality and the elimination of discriminatory laws and practices.
Their efforts have not only inspired change within Iran but have also drawn international attention to the ongoing struggle for women's rights in the country.
How can we use photography to help change public opinion?
Visual storytelling, often accomplished through a series of photographs, can provide a powerful and nuanced perspective on a subject. It can reach viewers across cultural divides, encouraging them to delve deeper into an issue.
Photographs can capture the raw and emotional aspects of a subject, making it easier for viewers to connect with the subject matter on a human level. Emotional images can inspire empathy and compassion, driving individuals to take action or rethink their perspectives.
Can you describe your photographic practice and techniques?
Currently, my work revolves around creating staged photographs, although I approach it less like a traditional photographer and more like a painter. I aim to construct tableaus and visual vignettes that are rich in narrative and emotion.
In my artistic process, I have a deep appreciation for compositions, colours and textiles, as I consider them essential components to a tuly meaningful image – I believe that they play a crucial role in eliciting specific emotions and triggering memories within the viewer.
Whether I'm documenting social issues or capturing a portrait, my goal is to create images that resonate with viewers and spark conversations.
Ultimately, my photographic practice is a journey of discovery, storytelling, and connection, driven by a passion for the visual art of photography and its ability to communicate the richness of the human experience.
Tell us about Moustachioed Women and Rhinoplastic Girls and your latest work – Pro Femina.
In Moustachioed Women and Rhinoplastic Girls I delve into the ever-shifting perceptions of women's body image across various historical, cultural, and religious contexts.
Within this body of work, some women are portrayed in the modern act of undergoing rhinoplasty procedures, while others depict the 19th-century practice of cultivating facial hair to conform to the beauty standards of that era.
By juxtaposing these vastly different beauty rituals, I aim to uncover common threads that reveal a subtle but pervasive aspect of women's bodies and beauty: its capricious and changeable nature, juxtaposed with its enduring influence over women's lives.
The central theme in Pro Femina revolves around the plight of women's bodies and Iranian women, who are presently subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.
These images draw inspiration from real-life stories, offering poignant recreations that bear witness to the pain and tragedy endured by Iranian women. The story of control, ownership and violation of women's bodies, which started with Moustachioed Women and Rhinoplastic Girls continues in a new way within Pro femina.
Currently, "Pro Femina" is being exhibited alongside "Moustachioed Women and Rhinoplastic Girls" as part of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB) at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, running until November 5th.
What are your upcoming projects?
There are so many projects I’m excited about! Currently, I'm focused on completing the remaining images for "Pro Femina." I'm also creating a series of workshops for emerging artists and photographers, which I’m really looking forward to running. Back early next year I’ll be kickstarting a project exploring fashion in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
You can see more of Ramak's photography on her website.