2015 Winners - Laurence Rasti
The purpose of the Aperture Portfolio Prize is to identify trends in contemporary photography and highlight artists whose work deserves greater recognition. When choosing the first-prize winner and runners-up, Aperture’s editorial and curatorial staff look for innovative bodies of work that haven’t been widely seen in major publications or exhibition venues.
For more information about the Aperture Portfolio Prize, please visit aperture.org/portfolio-prize.
“In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”
—Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at Columbia University, September 24, 2007
Prompted by what has now become an infamous statement by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Laurence Rasti’s series Il n’y a pas d’homosexuels en Iran (There are no homosexuals in Iran) centers on a nation with an overt intolerance toward homosexuals; homosexuality is illegal in Iran, and those found guilty of performing homosexual acts can be executed.
As a Swiss-born Iranian, Rasti has spent time in both countries and has developed a unique perspective surrounding this persecution. Her striking images emphasize the secrecy and anonymity needed within the Iranian LGBTQ community. By including traditional and contemporary patterns, landscapes, and mundane street scenes, she creates a new language for camouflage and discretion. At times, Rasti hides couples behind eye-catching props such as balloons or flowers, which create a strong contrast between conspicuousness and obscurity. She writes, “In this context of uncertainty where anonymity is the best protection, this series of photographs questions the fragile nature of identity and gender concepts. It tries to give back to those people a face that their country has temporarily stolen.” Rasti’s work, as well as her collaborators in this series, provide evidence of the critical role photography plays in reflecting back cultural anxieties, and of its ability to call for awareness.
Laurence Rasti (born in Geneva, 1990) received a bachelor’s degree in photography at the École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2014. While both her parents are Iranian, she was born and raised in Switzerland. This cultural hybridization leads her to reconsider the habits and codes defined by these two cultures in order to understand the power of gender in our societies. Her work has been exhibited in various group exhibitions, including at Circulation(s): Festival for Young European Photography and the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne.