Best Work by an Emerging Photographer | Winner

Shirin Abedi

Hannover / DE

May I Have This Dance?


Nona (18), Mojdeh (21), Reyhaneh (22) and Yasamin (22) belonged to the “Alternative” ballet group in Tehran until 2020. They are part of the Iranian post-war generation, which stands up for self-determination, freedom and equality.

In 1958 the Iranian national ballet company was established and produced over 50 shows till the revolution. According to the Iranian law, immorality and fornication result from sensual dance, why 1979 all dance facilities got dissolved and dance got banned from the Iranian public.

Nevertheless, more and more Iranians are dancing today and try to make this their profession, while struggling with reprisals: Already approved plays are cancelled, the light is turned off during the performance and too much public attention, such on Instagram for instance may result in the arrest of the participating artists.
Whereas during the revolution ballet’s abolition symbolized independence from the West, today dance stands for the longing of a generation for Western freedom.


Born 1996 in Tehran, Shirin Abedi migrated to Germany at the age of seven.
Since then, she has lived a parallel existence between two cultures. Her interest in Photojournalism grew during her early teenage years and got more visible after she took her first class in photography in 2011. Since 2014 Shirin studies photojournalism and documentary photography in Hannover with an exchange semester in 2019 at DMJX in Aarhus, Denmark.
In 2016 she moved to Tehran for a year to understand her country of origin. She is mostly interested in topics around emancipation, identity and everyday heroes and their battles. Shirin is a member of Fotobus Society, Diversify Photo, Deutsche Journalisten Union and Versager Kollektiv.

Awards, Grants & Mentions

2021 New York Portfolio Review
2021 ProfiFoto New Talent Award Best-of-Best 20/21, 3rd Prize Winner
2020 Emerge Visual Journalism Grant, Finalist
2020 Alexia Foundation Student Grant, Finalist
2020 Ausweg Gesucht, Best Picture, Winner
2020 Vonovia Award, Best Newcomer, Shortlist
2020 ProfiFoto New Talent Award 20/2, Winner
2020 Global Peace Photo Award, Shortlist
2020 f3 - freiraum für fotografie Award
2020 HAZ Audience Award, 3rd Prize
2020 BFF Foerderpreis, Finalist
2020 Jugendfotopreis, Winner
2020 VOHH Foto Fest, Winner
2019 BFF Foerderpreis, Grant Recipient
2019 Alexia Foundation Student Grant, Shortlist

Jury Statement

With her work ‘May I have this dance’, Tehran-born Shirin Abedi shows us a piece of forbidden art from her home country. In lively and sensitive pictures, Shirin Abedi tells of the passion for dance, which in Iran also stands as a symbol of peaceful resistance against the traditional Islamic society.

A photographic essay about the longing for freedom expressed in the art form of dance. Even though each individual photo can stand on its own, the story behind the photos becomes legible, especially in the series. The dance halls are closed. But the dance continues, hidden in private spaces.

The poetic images tell a multi-layered and powerful story of a young generation's longing for freedom and creative self-realization. This clever overall dramaturgy of the selected images conveys the concept in its essential points and makes it visually tangible. Shirin Abedi's ‘May I have this Dance’ is a touching and magnificent work.