October 13, 2023

Chatting the Pictures: Considering Mahsa Amini’s Legacy on the First Anniversary of Her Death

Welcome to Chatting the Pictures. Every two weeks, we present a short, lively video discussion between Michael Shaw, publisher of Reading the Pictures, and writer, professor, and historian, Cara Finnegan, examining a significant picture in the news. Chatting the Pictures is produced by Liliana Michelena.

By Staff
About the Video

This photo by Iranian photographer Ahmad Halabisaz was taken a few days after the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran on September 16, 2022. The 22-year-old Kurdish woman was allegedly killed by Iran’s morality police for violating the country’s mandatory hijab law. On the first anniversary of her passing, we consider this photo as part of her legacy. Since the death, Iranian women have been protesting in public without a head covering. In the photo, an Iranian woman sits in a chair in front of a busy square in Tehran where a massive crowd of men and women, young and old, chant the slogan: ‘Woman, Life, Freedom.’

As Cara Finnegan notes: “This photo is a great illustration of the idea that you don’t have to be standing up to stand up for yourself.” In the video, we underscore the photo’s distinctiveness, emphasizing personal mood over public action. We explore the depth of the woman’s expression, which transcends mere visible anger. We examine her body language and attire, symbolizing both immediate defiance and a prolonged commitment to the cause. Finally, we note the image’s layers, deftly contrasting the public realm with personal intimacy and the faceless with the familiar.

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Michael Shaw

An analyst of news photos and visual journalism, and a frequent lecturer and writer on visual politics, photojournalism and media literacy, Michael is the founder and publisher of Reading the Pictures.

Cara Finnegan

Cara Finnegan is a writer, photo historian, and professor of Communication at the University of Illinois. She has been affiliated with Reading The Pictures for nearly 15 years, most recently as co-host of Chatting The Pictures. Her most recent book is Photographic Presidents: Making History from Daguerreotype to Digital.


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