‘I always aim to show the beauty, power and free will of Iranian women’: Forough Alaei’s best phone picture

<span>Woman of the Sea, 2019, shot on iPhone 11 Pro Max.</span><span>Photograph: Forough Alaei</span>
Woman of the Sea, 2019, shot on iPhone 11 Pro Max.Photograph: Forough Alaei

Iranian photographer Forough Alaei has a special interest in women’s rights: she has documented female football fans prohibited from entering her country’s stadiums, and for this project spent a month on Hengam Island. Alaei explains that here, in the south of Iran, “the women have a major role in the economy of the family. While they are very traditional and do housework, they also do fishing and crafts, and have jobs. This is Marziyeh; she’s 38 and a chef in an independent restaurant serving delicious, spicy seafood to the increasing number of tourists in the region.”

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Alaei stayed for an extended period in order to gain the women’s trust, and found it easiest to document their lives and work using a phone. “They’re familiar objects,” she says. “Digital cameras can be intimidating or off-putting to people in the small, traditional regions.”

She says Marziyeh was amazed by the image, particularly the combination of her colourful dress and the turquoise water. “I am always aiming to show the beauty, the power and free will of Iranian women, even with the many oppressions and limits they face in their lives,” Alaei adds. “With the dress in the wind and the infinite view of the sea, this image feels like a version of freedom to me.”