By Tanya Gold
Tara Inanloo is sitting in a cafe in London. Small, slim and sobbing, she is 21 and an Iranian feminist activist and photographer. Inanloo arrived in Britain in 2008 to study photography at Nottingham Trent University. Inspired by the work of Cindy Sherman, she photographed herself in different disguises – as a Wag, as a bluestocking, as an innocent, as a whore. "I represent the different Iranian women that I discover inside myself," she says. "Disguising is what Iranians grow up with. Disguising is the most important part of my life. I grew up drowning in lies and dishonesty. It is not easy to grow up pretending to be a non-existent creature. You always have to lie. But I have always tried to be an outlaw and cross the boundaries."
And so some of the photographs are nudes. In one, wearing lipstick and pearls, she looks like Marilyn Monroe. The victim of one patriarchy wanted to look like the victim of another. They are called Illegal Images, a joke with a terrible punchline, because the Iranian secret police were tipped off and they arrived at her father's home, waving the photographs. Meanwhile a fellow feminist activist, who collected Inanloo's work, has been arrested.
So if you go back home, I ask, do you think will you be arrested? "No," she says simply, "I think I will be executed. I could never imagine a day when I would not be able to go back to Iran. I have just been making artworks that represent my beliefs." So she has applied for asylum. I hope the British government can find space for Tara Inanloo and all the Tara Inanloos within her.