2020 Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts

Elaheh Ahmadi

Honorable Mention, 2020 Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts
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Black and white 35mm film, assorted digital and gelatin silver prints. 8×10 inches. 2019.

Trapped is about struggles that women face in society due to their sexuality. Every photo shoot is designed and directed based on the model’s personal life and background. This project aims to raise awareness while helping women be comfortable sharing their struggles.

In her portraits Ahmadi aims to help her subjects embrace their challenges and to let the world know what that they are going through, rather than suppressing these experiences.

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When Did We Stop Thinking?

Black and white 35mm film, gelatin silver prints. 2019.

Beginning in Fall 2019, Ahmadi was inspired to work on a project that expanded beyond her interest in the struggles of women in modern society into more universal consideration of what all of us struggle within our daily lives.

As a result, she put together a series of photos and wrote an essay that works as an instruction guide to the narrative behind the images. The photographs and the essay may at first appear chaotic and unrelated, like puzzle pieces, but she aims for her audience to find a deeper connection among the disparate parts.

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Cry Out (فریاد)

Photogram and makeup. 2020.

Between November 2019 and January 2020, the people of Iran were struck by three dramatic and stressful events. First, a total government shutdown of the internet in response to citizen protests over gas prices; second, the threat of war between the Iranian and U.S. governments; and third, the accidental shooting of a passenger plane that took the lives of 176 innocent people. The pain of these events was felt acutely in Iran, and by Iranians like Ahmadi who were living and studying around the world.

She describes the inspiration for her piece Cry Out:

“During all of these incidents, I found myself powerless and miles away from everything that was happening at my home and with my family in Iran. I felt powerless when I had to be the messenger of this news to my friends and hear them sob over the phone or cry in my arms.

At that time, I was introduced to a poem, “Cry out (فریاد),” by Akhavan Sales. The poet talks about his house being on fire. Everyone around him is deep asleep and he is crying out and trying to stop the fire, but he ends up being burned and fainting. His house is a metaphor for his country, and how deeply he wants to catch the fire, but he feels powerless. Nothing could put words to how I was feeling better than this poem. And that is how my piece, Cry Out, was initiated. I printed a negative from his poem, took it to the darkroom, and let my feelings take care of the rest. I exposed 9 papers with this poem, and then I lay down on the paper and exposed the rest of the paper. After the print was done, I took a red lipstick, an eyeliner, a mascara, and started writing and drawing on the print.”

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About the Artist

Elaheh Ahmadi is a visual and performance artist and computer engineer from Tehran, Iran, currently based in Boston. She utilizes photography, performance, and writing to raise awareness of contemporary social issues, particularly problems of sexism, racism, and human rights. She is currently studying in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, while independently developing her artistic practice and finding her creative voice.

More at Elaheh Ahmadi’s website

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