Zahra Darvishian: Exploring Loneliness in an Urban Landscape

Loneliness and the quality of being in a state of nothingness is central to human experience. While people encounter loneliness at varying degrees and lengths, it is inherent to the process of life and death. Though one is thrown into existence, as philosophers put it, the ‘thrownness’ happens in an extreme state of loneliness. As the being grows up and functions as an adult, loneliness follows like a shadow, though rays of sunlight may warm a part of the person. This warmth is however transient and does not last for a long time.

Abandonment, estrangement, insecurity during childhood, adolescence and adulthood; disease, melancholy and death during old age seem to be central to human experience world wide. This is especially true in countries that are ravaged by wars, internal conflict and external aggression. Iran is no exception and the people of this ancient country have seen it all, for thousands of years, before Indian or Greek civilizations took birth. Many have said and noted that Persia is a land where melancholy and sadness are celebrated, and rejoiced. Poets and writers from Persia have taken inspiration from the loneliness of existence, the pain of breathing and comfort that death provides, like a soothing balm.

After the revolution, Persian artists have continued to produce internationally acclaimed works of traditional art, digital art, film and music. Zahra Darvishian is a Tehran based poetess, photographer and painter who explores the themes of disturbed mind, loneliness, women in Iran, unfulfilled dreams, a cry for freedom, urban loneliness, and Id’s conflicts. Zahra found solace in traditional Iranian music when she was 15 and continued to pursue her degree in translation of English from foreign languages and French literature. She majored in Existentialism at the Iranian Language Institute.

After not finding what she needed in a world of words, she experimented with Graphics and did an M.A. in Photography from the University of Arts. Her thesis explored photo semiology in under 5-year-old children’s fantasy before intermingling with social language. She has published three books steeped in poetry: White Blanket, Surviving Breathlessly, and Farvardin and I. A fourth one, Glue is in the press. She exhibited some of her paintings in 2007 at the Servat Gallery. Titled “Tolerate all these!”, the collection revolves around the theme of women and their agonies.

Her urban photographs explore loneliness in a way that many photographers can’t. Using everyday situations like the Church, a veiled door and faceless figures masked by lighting and shadows, Zahra helps create photographs that resonate loneliness in an anonymous and lonely existence. The faceless veiled woman outside the veil may have had a story of her own, a story that would never be known or heard, a voice that would be silenced by the rhythms of a pulsating city. The youngster in the church would be just any other person visiting it everyday. No questions asked, no answers given. A punishment that involves no violence, the punishment of disillusionment and that of facing the nothingness. Zahra Darvishian manages to capture the basic human issue of loneliness and disconnectedness in photographs that reek of banality and urban chaos.

Courtesy Zahra Darvishian

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  • madkat

    Each photograph has captured essence of human loneliness and steps beyond the limited world of language and words. The interpretation is excellent.

    • Jaiyant Cavale

      Why, thank you Madkat! I guess we all have been there at some point in our lives..

  • zahra darvishian

    thanks very much for what you’ve done. I got really amazed at the relationship you could perfectly make with my series.
    the last paragraph perfectly talks about the 3 projects I’m following in canada, as an immigrant.
    It feels so weird to be understood by a stranger, although if I were God, the first thing I would certainty change, was replacing the term “people” with “strangers”. In that way, there could be no complaints about loneliness.

    I truly appreciate it. so long…

    • Jaiyant Cavale

      Thanks for visiting the site and appreciating Zahra.. Your paintings are just as thought provoking.

      I guess art is a Universal language which can be understood by everyone, that is, who is willing to understand.

      The word ‘people’ as you say, certainly alienates the individual. When we say strangers, this loneliness gets a meaning, a certain respect. It is interesting that meanings and perceptions change with every new observation of the same thing.

  • saeed zare

    that was great and i feel they are more than common photos
    more than loneliness

    • Jaiyant Cavale

      You are right Saeed, these photographs are special. The feeling of being isolated in a crowd is beyond loneliness, you are right again

  • Barbara H Jensen

    I had not been aware of Zahra Darvishian’s work, but now I plan to seek it out. I guess loneliness shouldn’t be thought of as unusual–it’s the human condition. Thanks for writing this.