An over dimensioned male hand, an Iranian woman, strings, a scissors and a crackled concrete wall are all objects used in my image to communicate the central themes in the article ‘Starting at Home, Iran’s Women fights for Rights’ published in the New York Times, February 12th 2009 (

The main theme in the article is about Iranian women trying to break free of their husbands and to achieve equal status in the Muslim theocracy. I picked the following sentences that I wanted my image to illustrate/communicate:

  • Iranian women divorce from their husbands
  • Iranian women generally free themselves from men (husbands and fathers)
  • Iranian women starts to be mistresses of their own destiny
  • Iranian women are fighting for their own rights.

The submitted image shows a female puppet that is ‘controlled’ with strings from a male hand above. In her hand she has a scissors. The picture illustrates that Iranian women are held in a short and tight leash and that they don’t have the control over their own lives/destinies. The scissors is a symbol of how Iranian women tries to change the situation – they are fighting for their own rights and to free themselves from men.

According to my research post about the process of making meaning it is important to think about the receiver when using symbols. You need to make sure that most people put the same symbolic meaning into the picture as you do. To insure that, I presented the idea to several people who diverted in age, gender and culture. It was apparent to me that the message was clear to all of them.

It is possible to look at the composition in different ways. On one hand I centered the woman and the male hand. In another way you can say that I have (almost) placed the scissors according to the rule of third. I chose to center the male hand and the woman to make her look more confronting and to make the look in her eyes more clear. Furthermore it creates a kind of balance in the picture. The scissor is placed after the rule of third to create more attention to this specific tool/symbol.

The thickness of the strings was hard for me to decide and I put a lot of work into giving them the right look. On one hand I wanted them to look thick and not easy to break, but on the other hand was it important for me that they still looked like strings that could be cut with the right tool. When I reflect over the process now I could have chosen to use chains instead to make relationship between the woman and male appear even stronger.

I changed the colors of the scissor to make it more distinctive and to add a symbolic meaning. Before the change of color, the blades almost blended with the background. Therefore I used a change of brightness and exposure to make them lighter. I also chose to change the color of the handle in the light of my research post about colors. I chose a dark red to create attention and to symbolize war, power, courage and strength. Not all people will associate the red color with these words so it was important to me that the color fitted into the image in general.

The background consists of a crackled concrete wall to symbolize that something is changing. The old foundation and norms in the Iranian society and between men and women are breaking.

All things considered the image consists of a lot of different components. I have added symbolic meanings, retouched all photos and created shadows to create a photo-real image that in the best possible way communicates the theme of the article.


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