*Alice Aedy

Persia Digest - This photographic series was shot on 35mm film during the Iranian New Year (Nowruz). Photographing on film in Iran meant slowing down and being more conscious of the images I took – a welcome departure from the photo journalism work I had been doing prior to the trip.

Iran defied stereotypes and exceeded my expectations. My intention was to focus on taking portraits that captured the diversity of Iranian women. I met empowered women from all walks of life, united in their defiance and pride. Previously, I had only been exposed to a one-dimensional narrative of Iranian women as oppressed, as “seen and not heard”. In the process of getting to know women, I was surprised to learn that they make up the majority undergraduates, and 70% of science and engineering students are female. Jobs in positions of power and entrepreneurship are not out of reach either. I met Elly, a women’s rights activist, and best friends Hoda and Zohreh, two female university professors who took me on a road-trip – and absolutely loved One Direction. Sahel (meaning “beach”) was an artist from Tehran, named after a memorable trip her mother made during her pregnancy. All of these women were travelling across Iran to various New Year celebrations.

Before visiting, I was warned it would be hard to take portraits; women would be apprehensive, their husbands perhaps even more so. But when I was there, I found the opposite to be true. The Iranians I encountered were delighted to welcome a foreigner, and more hospitable than I could ever have imagined. Most were acutely conscious of their government’s international reputation, and sadly, some asked me: “Tell your country we are not terrorists here.” Travelling to Iran reminded me that we too easily paint a population with one brush, and while it’s important to be aware of local issues, they are not what defines a country.

*Alice Aedy is a 24-year old documentary photographer and film-maker published in The Times, Vice, The Guardian, Huck Magazine, Suitcase Magazine, Al Jazeera, Monocle, Smith Journal, BBC and more. Alice graduated with a degree in History and Politics from LSE in 2015 and spent much of 2016/17 on the front-lines of the European refugee crisis, reporting from inside refugee camps in Greece, Serbia and France. Her focus is on migration, women’s rights and environmental issues, with recent assignments to Iran and Somaliland to cover the drought and acute food crisis. The Guardian has featured a profile of Alice’s work and her image of a young Syrian refugee in a military-run refugee camp in Greece appeared on the publication’s front-page. She also produced a documentary on migrants in Serbia for The Guardian and recently began an MA in documentary film-making at UCL.

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