Ghazaleh Rezaei 'Lamentation' from the series The Martyrs
In her ongoing project The Martyrs, Ghazaleh Rezaei draws an analogy between the Iran-Iraq war and the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran. Using the photographic archive of her late uncle, Cyrus Bahadori (1960-1993), as a starting point, Ghazaleh illustrates a parallel between the past and the present.
Over the past four decades, the state-propogated war narrative in Iran placed significant emphasis on martyrdom. Against the backdrop of the alarmingly high fatality rates during the pandemic, the archival photos of war martyrs gain new context in Rezaei’s project. Both crises evoke similar responses: a profound sense of loss over an extended period of time, and the desperate realisation that thoughtful interventions could have saved these human lives.
While war fatalities were featured in heroic narratives, the victims of the pandemic remain mostly anonymous. The mourning for war soldiers and sympathy for their bereaved family members tended to be collectively shared. In the case of deaths during the pandemic, this communal proximity in times of mutual grief, and the comfort it provided, was absent.
Razaei anonymizes the people in her project by using a bright flash to illuminate their faces. Locating the work in a church provides a visual comparison with anonymized iconoclastic figures like Mary depicted in the tomb of Frederik van Renesse. Centered upon light, in this series, Rezaei moves between concealing and revealing, assembling and disassembling—while recontextualising a well-established element of contemporary Iranian society.
The photographer dedicates this work to Cyrus Bahadori, and COVID-19 Victims.
The work of Ghazaleh Rezaei is part of the group exhibition Space to Breathe, curated by Newsha Tavakolian and on display in the Grote Kerk Breda.
Ghazaleh Rezaei (b.1990, Tehran, Iran) is a photographer based in Tehran, Iran. She is currently a PhD candidate in Art Studies at the University of Tehran. Her works focuses on aspects of Iranian culture, history and their relation to contemporary concerns.
Location: Grote Kerk