O L I V I A   S T R E T T L E

Guest Lecture: Amak Mahmoodian
Thursday 10th March 2022

Amak Mahmoodian is an artist, photographer and curator specialising in documentary photography. Originally from Iran, now living in Bristol, Amak’s practical work explores identity and home by working with poetry, photography and archives. 

Yesterday on the 9th March, I attended an online talk with Amak herself. It was part of my university online session via Microsoft Teams and was extremely helpful in motivating me towards the completion of my current work as well as inspiring the photobook I am planning on creating for my final outcome for the degree show. 

One project Mahmoodian spoke highly of was ‘Shenasnameh’ - meaning identity booklet or birth certificate. This project bagan near the end of 2008 whilst sitting in a registration office with her mother. They were holding their Shenasnameh. Amak came to a relalistation of the similarities within her and her mother photographs, even with all of their differences in life. The fingerprints within the book shown their identities and differences that cannot be changed. This was the concept that lead to Amak Mahmoodian wanting to find out more. It took just over two years to gather photographs, finger prints and stories of those around her to be compiled into the book. The format of the book was very important to Mahmoodian as it was a personal, intimate and open experience within the pages. The pouches that each book comes in are handmade by Amak herself, it is the same cloth that is used for headscarves when taking their photographs. It was an intientional decision made by Amak in order for people to become engaged within the experience of opening and unveiling the book. Being able to feel for themselves the delicate fabric that holds so many stories. The book was sealed with a wax stamp in a way to conceal and enclose the reality that needs to be physically unfolded - making it a memorable involvement.

Amak Mahmoodian also engaged within a small Q&A session towards the end of the online meeting. It was a way for us to question and be open about our feelings towards the work as well as find out more. It definitely made the session feel more personal as we could have a conversation back and forth, relating to our own work by asking for opinions and inspiration. I found the call to be motivating towards the curation of my own current work as I am in the process of deciding on the layout, sequence and stock types. Although the subject matter between mine and Amak’s work differed, it was relevent in terms of a small, personal and intimate documentation of people close to you. I could tell Amak Mahmoodian was passionate about the work she was creating and only made me and the others watching even more inspired.


Visit Amak Mahmoodian’s website - https://amakmahmoodian.co.uk

         Screenshots from the teams call with Amak Mahmoodian