Still lives, landscapes, and geometric compositions generally depict experiences of objective beauty—pretty things without personality. But that's not the case in the work of photographer Shirana Shahbazi. First Things First is a retrospective of the artist's work at the KINDL Centre for Contemporary Art, a converted brewery in Berlin. The show lays out a lifetime spent turning generic subjects into ruminations on place, sense of self, and time.
Most often, the Iranian-born photographer achieves this through the exaggerated manipulation of color. Two-tone lithograph prints, documenting her trips back and forth from her birthplace of Tehran to her home in Zurich, seem a literal black and white metaphor for her duality of belonging. A shot of the windblown hair of a woman, taken from the back and highlighted with red, could be a representation of the essence of the subject's personality or simply an appreciation for the unappreciated saturation of color in the everyday. Or both.
Shahbazi encourages ambiguity. She tells Creators she entered the medium through an interest in journalism: she wanted to document life in precise ways to tell a story. However, as she delved deeper into the craft, she found that it came with a multitude of "questions, problems, and misunderstandings." Photography, she realized, is "very imprecise, although it pretends to be the opposite."
For more information on First Things First, which runs at the Berlin gallery until August 6 of this year, check out KINDL's website.