London-based, Iran born artist Samin Ahmadzadeh assimilates archival photographs into evocative, interwoven images; these private mementoes generate public discourses around the interconnection of identity, experience and memory across time and cultures.
Samin began working with archival material whilst studying a Masters degree in Photography at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design. She used her own family archive, which included images of her father, whilst he was educated at a British boarding school, distanced from his native Iran. Recognising reverentially that “family albums are our memories and a representation of our cultural identity”, she used her personal, photographed past to picture the intercultural crossover which occurs within the self, between people and amongst a collective consciousness.
In this exhibition, she has continued to work with personal archives, installing images of her family alongside those from photographer Tim Andrews’s Brighton-based archive which comes from the same period, from the 1930s to the 1980s. The works have been created using a unique process of cutting, shredding and intricately hand weaving photographs together, integrated into interlocking patterns. A figure faces the British coast; Iranian family behold ships on the Persian Gulf. Unifying echoes occur across archives, creating a cross-cultural dialogue, West meeting East.
In a world where we increasingly use photography to construct simplified, idealised identities of ourselves, this exhibition intimates the idea of identity as complex and evolving. As Samin explains, “Society often identifies people by race, nationality, religion, gender, or even vocation. Yet identity is also intensely personal and reflects an individual human being’s lived experience”. This beautiful body of multi-faceted work re-enforces the notion that memory and identity are interlaced fragments, much as it is stored and recalled in our minds.
There is an intimate nature to the miniature photographic portraits, which demand a closeness, breaking down the barrier between object and observer. Samin speaks of specific details which are poignant and of personal significance to the viewer – termed ‘punctum’ by Roland Barthes. Many look like film stills, allowing us to build our own stories and interpretations around the images, reconstructed from remembered experiences.
The richly woven photography of this exhibition offers viewers a threshold for encounters across cultures, identities and shared experiences, which we bring to our understanding of the images. Amidst a time in which we find social, political and physical barriers being built to corner off cultures and communities, this is an emotive body of work about our interrelatedness. Samin Ahmadzadeh asks us to consider the connecting commonality which weaves us together, beyond borders.