Photojournalist Randy Goodman’s new exhibition “Iran: Women Only” showcases her stunning work from the past thirty plus years. During the early 1980s, Ms. Goodman visited Iran multiple times as a photojournalist for CBS News and Time magazine, and documented the hostage crisis, the first years of the Iran-Iraq War, and life in a changing Iran.
Ms. Goodman clearly enjoyed her subjects and cites the friendliness of the Iranian people. During a photo shoot in 1983, a female Revolutionary Guard helped her get a better vantage point, and regular civilians were always helpful. “They always tried to help me — the Westerner,” comments Ms. Goodman. “One time they put a chador on me so I’d fit in during Friday prayer. People were trying to reach out.
Returning last year, Ms. Goodman noticed a cultural shift as the influence of Western culture was becoming more apparent. In one photograph, there is a shot of young women, with one girl noticeably wearing a bandage across her nose, apparently from plastic surgery. “They see the image of the West and people want to change in order to look more like that — to go out on the street and have a bandaged nose is a status symbol,” says the photographer. “All the ways you would think that women can’t express themselves are almost in contrast [with reality].”
Another contemporary photo features a female cabbie — a working woman, with a determined gaze, wearing the traditional chador. “On the one hand they’re modernizing and on the other, they’re still being held back by a lot of traditions and customs that have become institutionalized,” says Ms. Goodman.
“Iran: Women Only” runs through August 28th at The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.