“From Labyrinth” at Cortona on the Move

From August 13th until the 17th I attended the Cortona On the Move Photography Festival (COTM) in Cortona, Italy. Here are some of the photography exhibits and workshops that interested me the most.

Farshid Tighehsaz’s “From Labyrinth,” part of the New Visions exhibition at COTM, reads very much like a political poem, touching on the personal, the sexual and the social level as Tighehsaz moves through his native Iran to understand the world he is living in. Though the exhibition is easily one of the most contained and small exhibition of the festival, it speaks with a clear and strong voice to the experiences and historical anxiety of young Iranian adults today. “From Labyrinth” is Tighehsaz’s rumination on “the fears and effects of the Islamic revolution and the impact of 8 years of war on its later generations.” In his own words;

Being young in Iran means limitation. A limitation in which religion affects politics, art, culture, diversion, economy, education, clothing, speaking, behavior, femalehood, malehood, connections and life. Whenever I try to find my identity I inevitably get involved with my society and I look for myself in everyone; in the lives of my friends and people around me. In this quest I found some resemblances. I found fear. The fear of future, the fear of annihilation, the fear of sexuality, the fear of loneliness, the fear of nobody being around and the fear of not being happy.

A common struggle many photographers have is their ability to write captions — or write about their work at all. All too often the captions for an exhibition are either non-existent, leaving the audience without a guide to the work they are seeing, or too technical and without feeling, which, instead of supporting the photography being shown, rather takes away from the story overall. The balance between writing and photography is difficult, with only a few successfully walking the line. Yet, it can be a key element to dynamic and informative documentary work.

However, Tighehsaz’s “From Labyrinth” found the perfect balance between beautiful images and informative captions that both helped the audience understand the issues being presented, as well as making the photographs better through their poetic and beautiful tone. The limitation that Tighehsaz references in his artist statement is effectively presented through the interweaving of poetic and political images with equally poetic and political captions.

The images being shown together with their captions balance between; the informative, such as the image of a young boy in the hospital who was injured from a mine explosion with the caption, “In May 2013, ‘Kamkar Osmani’ has injured because of the remain mine explosion from (Iraq and Iran) war in Sardasht, Kurdestan, Iran. And he has lost his left eye. He was born in 2001,” the curious, such as with the image of a large banner being unfurled in the city center as part of a protest with the simple caption, “God and devil,” as well as the poetic, such as with the image of couple sitting at a table, the woman’s head resting and the caption saying, “Love is difficult when you can’t touch.”

Captions such as this bring a new level to the story. Through Tighehsaz’s photography and writing the mystery and depth of life is laid out before the audience, without giving too much away. “From Labyrinth” makes the audience work to understand it; it forces the audience to see themselves in the story.

In a time where Islamophobia runs all too rampant in the west and our two cultures seem to be moving further and further apart, “From Labyrinth” makes a heartened call for understanding. “From Labyrinth” is dark, but kind, melancholy, but honest and is an earnest reminder of the realities of the world today.

As a photographer, I have come to understand my work as being a delicate balance between a record of life and a testimony of the human condition.

As a photographer, I have come to understand my work as being a delicate balance between a record of life and a testimony of the human condition.