Parisa Azadi

6x6 Asia Talent: Parisa Azadi, Iran/Canada

“Parisa Azadi is one of the hardest working young photographers I know. She is passionate, engaged, gentle and profound. Her work opens a door to intimate moments that only a trusted person can witness. She approaches these moments with respect and intensity.” - Erika Larsen, United States, photographer, and 6x6 nominator.

Parisa Azadi is an Iranian-Canadian freelance documentary photographer based between Iran and Dubai. In her work, she brings interconnected themes of social issues, gender identity and loss of home to the forefront.

Ordinary Grief

Ordinary Grief  is a story of reconciliation. The project examines the tension between the photographer’s identity and Iran's transition between tradition and modernity. 

Azadi said about her project: “In 2017, I returned to Iran after 25 years of self-exile, where I embarked on a personal and political reclamation of my identity and history. With images spanning 2017-2021, ‘Ordinary Grief’ is my attempt to reconcile despair and joy, exhaustion and hope. It’s about ordinary Iranians actively trying to create new futures for themselves despite the odds. It’s a love letter to a country from which I feel estranged, despite having been born there, and to the people who call it home. The photographs mark the passage of time as they document physical, emotional, and political limbo: they question what it means to long and belong."

Ordinary Grief, curated by Bettina Freimann, was on display at Melike Bilir Gallery as part of the 8th Triennial of Photography in Hamburg, Germany from 27 May to 12 June 2022. Find out more

Nesa in her home with her friend Yasaman, during the COVID-19 pandemic in Tehran, Iran, on 28 June 2020. Like many young Iranians, they are worried about their future. Currency collapse, unemployment, and inflation make it harder for young Iranians to make ends meet, with many of them seeking a better life abroad. 
Akbar Golmohammadi takes a break while hiking in the mountainous area of Kilan, Iran, on 20 February 2018. Locals used to call Kilan ‘the lost heaven.’ Over the years, due to rising temperatures, climate change, and poor urban planning, the village is experiencing severe drought and a high unemployment rate.
Reza Pavand poses for a portrait during his wedding celebration on the Island of Hormuz, Iran, on 19 April 2019.
"This is a portrait of two sisters on the beach of Bandar Abbas, a port city in the south of Iran. It’s a tender and honest moment. I was struck by their innocence, by what they were wearing and how free they felt. The portrait reminds me of how much Iran has changed since my childhood. In those days, rules were non-negotiable. I remember being shamed by a stranger for wearing a short dress at the age of six on the streets of Tehran. The growing religious conservatism and culture of fear and resentment taught people to constantly police each other. Iran has changed gradually over the years, but some of those changes have been enormous and the wall that divided us before is gradually crumbling. I’m finding more moments of lightness, moments where life feels a bit more relaxed, normal, and unencumbered." - Parisa Azadi, 7 December 2018.

Birds Are Pilgrims Too

Birds Are Pilgrims Too is a meditation on grief, tradition, and remembrance. The project examines the identity and intimacy of Hossaini Dalan, a congregation hall for Shia Muslims in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to observe and mourn Imam Hossain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. In 2015, Hossaini Dalan was targeted in a bomb attack as thousands gathered for the annual Shia ceremony, Ashura. A child was killed and hundreds were injured.

In Shia Islamic tradition, holy shrines have become symbols for people to make sense of their lives. It is believed that wishes are fulfilled here, giving hope to those who are frail. People gather daily in Hossaini Dalan to meditate, heal and seek blessings. In recent years, there has been a negative reference towards Shia shrines due to growing sectarian tension in the Middle East and South Asia. The sporadic sectarian violence often targeting Shia shrines and mosques has contributed to tensions within Muslim societies. Birds Are Pilgrims Too aims to challenge the stereotypes related to Shia shrines and examine the social and cultural complexities of this religious minority and its influence across the Muslim world.
Dried leaves fall on a tree in Hossaini Dalan in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 18 March 2017.
A Shiite Muslim boy prays at the grave of a relative in the cemetery in Hossaini Dalan in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 21 January 2017.
Lit candles near the front entrance of Hossaini Dalan in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 29 January 2017. Worshippers gather and light candles here to make wishes and seek blessings.

A Muslim boy runs through the garden in Hossaini Dalan in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 9 March 2017.

Discover work by the 6x6 Asia talents, and find out about 6x6’s nomination and selection process.