Shenasnameh is the name of the official Iranian Birth Certificate. It is valid for life, but the photograph which it contains must be updated according to the standards.
For a woman in Iran, the making of this photograph is a personally charged affair; her hair must be covered in keeping with official standards, and any excess of make-up will be met with official disapproval.
Six years ago, I was waiting in a reception room, holding the birth certificates of my mother and myself. My eyes began to flick from the picture of my mother to mine, and back again.
A sudden realization came upon me about what these pictures meant, of what they showed, and what they didn’t show. My mother and I, for all our differences, were welded into one being. I looked like my mother, and my mother looked like me. But it went beyond that. All of a sudden I realized that all Iranian women were being made to look the same; plain faces under hairless scarves.
That same day my fingerprint was fixed next to my image and my mother’s fingerprint was fixed next to her image. Though, the faces had become the same, the fingerprints were different.
After that day, I started collecting the Shenasnameh portraits of Iranian women, of family and friends. And with the pictures I collected the fingerprints. And gradually, different stories began to be told and the differences came through; both in the fingerprints but also in faces that, despite the restrictions that are placed around them, still claim individuality and person-hood; by a glint in the eyes, a turn of the mouth, or a raise of the brows.
That is what this project is about: women who are individuals, women who are more than just a loose strand of hair. A small part of her being can show how different she is from the others, she is herself.Shenasnameh was a journey, inside and outside, these are the women with whom I have been living for years, I am one of them.
Shenasnameh is the narrative of my own life.
Amak Mahmoodian is an Iranian photographer, film maker and curator living in the UK. Her work questions the identity, it expresses something personal, which pertains to a general issue. The multimedia Shenasnameh was presented during Slideluck Gazebook.