Stacy Arezou Mehrfar, The Moon Belongs to Everyone

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2021 by GOST Books (here). Hardcover (16.5 x 22.5 cm), 112 pages, with 32 full color images and 25 images printed silver on uncoated black paper. Includes a poem by the artist. Design and production by GOST. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: In her new photobook, Stacy Arezou Mehrfar thinks about migration and its resulting cultural disruptions as she reflects on her own experience of shifting continents and modes of perception. Mehrfar’s parents moved to the United States from Iran in the sixties; she was born and grew up in Long Island, NY, surrounded by Persian culture and heritage, looking at family albums with photographs of her distant relatives. From her early years, she was aware of her cultural identity as an Iranian American Jewish woman. She married an Australian and emigrated to a different continent in her early thirties. There she found herself in a country with a different culture, nature, landscape, and light; even the English language was different. In the past few years, Mehrfar has been working on a series to visualize her experience of feeling out of place, and her photobook titled The Moon Belongs to Everyone is a poetic exploration of this disorientation.

The cover of the book doesn’t give away too much: the title appears on the front in medium sized silver letters against the background of a dark photo of what looks like the forest. The endpapers are black, and the book has an exposed spine. Inside, the photographs appear either in color or beautifully printed in silver on uncoated black paper, connecting the narrative to the moon. All the images are full bleed – there is no intrusion of any text, page numbers, design, or other graphic details. The book has a comfortable size and is pleasant to hold, and flipping through the pages and smelling the scent of the ink adds physicality to the photobook experience. Together with excellent production and printing, the result is a beautiful and exciting book as an art object.  

Mehrfar opens the book with a vertical photo of a slope in the forest during winter; there are trees without leaves, snow, huge icicles, and also a tiny silhouette of a person going down. Printed in silver on uncoated paper, this image is quite striking and immediately sets the mood of a journey, discovery, and metaphor, as Mehrfar invites us to follow her.

The narrative of the book is non-linear, and to build her story Mehrfar brings together disconnected photographs of nature (and its texture), still lifes, color arrangements, and portraits. The images interweave memories and associations, reality and imagination, artfully playing with their imbalances. Paging through the book is like wandering through a dream, the images never quite disclosing their exact subject matter, always leaving us with the feeling that much more is happening than the images reveal. The flow encourages the viewer to dive completely into the haunting atmosphere and its rhythms.

Mehrfar’s photographs of landscape and nature are stripped of their locations, while the playful use of light confuses the time of the day: tree branches reflect in the water, dry leaves turn golden under the sunlight, a close up of grass makes visible its straws, a spiderweb looks silver under the light. Other shots look like familiar fragments of everyday life: birds and an airplane flying in the sky (although inverted so it looks black), a bright orange peel in a palm, a folded paper plate, a crushed pomegranate, and a stretch of a street. These jumbled memories relate to the idea of lost roots, disorientation, and the search for belonging.

In Australia, Mehrfar became fascinated with flowers that seemed exotic to her yet were simply growing on the sidewalks. She photographed the bulb of these flowers, filling the camera frame with bright colors. The colorful spreads, with explosions of yellow, pink, green, and red, serve as a poetic metaphor of her experience. These pages also add visual dynamism and bring warmth and coziness to the flow.

Mehrfar also photographed other immigrants who came to Australia from various parts of the world. Their close-up portraits, converted into black-and-white, focus on subtleties of emotion, showing people slightly disoriented, gazing through, caught crying, or with their eyes closed. These individuals exist both alone and together, and their presence adds a universal human dimension to Mehrfar’s story of migration; they also contribute to the sense of alternating connection and alienation. 

Our sense of belonging is rooted in our surroundings and the way we perceive them, and the moon becomes the only constant element between our separate worlds. The Moon Belongs to Everyone becomes a visual metaphor of Mehrfar’s experience of being between places. “The place between here and there,” she calls it in a short poem at the very end of the book. As a photobook, The Moon Belongs to Everyone stands out with its thoughtful design and lavish production, and succeeds in its quest to immerse the viewer into an unsettled atmosphere of personal dislocation. 

Collector’s POV: Stacy Arezou Mehrfar does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).

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