This image is taken from Michel Setboun’s third book about agencies. Eighty reporters were chosen to comment on one iconic image taken during their careers. The image we’re publishing today is a picture by Newsha Tavakolian.
This photograph shows a 20-year old female Iranian rock star. If only such a thing existed… In Iran, women aren’t allowed to sing alone, perform at concerts or record an album. For my project Listen, which follows six singers, I wanted to create photographs that could be the covers of their imaginary albums. The photographs echo their personal stories. This one was taken in Iran and is called, “When I was 20.” In Iran, a girl that age has to fight for everything, even the right to sing. It’s not just a series of photos of women singers in Iran, but the way in which women are reduced to silence simply because of their gender.
Throughout my career, I have never listened to people who criticized me because I was a female photographer. I started this job in 1998 when I was 16. At the time, only three of us were working in the profession. Nobody would take me seriously until I covered a student demonstration in 1999 from the first to the last day. I climbed up fences to take better pictures.
In 2009, we created Rawiya, a collective of female photographers from Palestine, Iran, Egypt and elsewhere. In the Middle East, many photographers come for reports that last a few days or weeks. Then they leave with their pictures and tell themselves, “This is what is happening here.” But it’s also very important for us to report from the inside about what we see, especially when it comes to the conditions of women.
Even better, through our work, we have been able to provide the opportunity for other women to join our profession. The way we work, the trust that magazine’s place in our judgment, our photographs, our perseverance, all this opens the door to other women. Today, in photography classes in Tehran, they almost outnumber the boys!
Interview by Estelle Faure.
40 ans de photojournalisme : Génération agences
by Michel Setboun and Marie Cousin
Éditions de La Martinière
ISBN : 978-2-7324-6402-2