Marinka Masséus photography

To. Be. Free. Again.

 My Stealthy Freedom 

Project on forced hijab in Iran © 2017

LensCulture Portrait Awards 2017, Winner Juror’s Pick

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full project

“My experience on compulsary hijab in Iran
October 2016

A lot of times in Iran, I did not wear the compulsary headscarf. I was amazed by the responses in the street. Women coming up to me, thanking me, hugging me, wanting to be in the picture with me.

Everyone smiling and waving, I felt like a symbol of freedom.
Only once did I encounter a negative response, a man making a hand gesture that must be oh so familiar for Iranian women. I was astounded by my own response. I got very angry that a stranger felt that he could tell me what to do. I felt it to my core. I yelled at him ‘I do not know you, you cannot tell me what to do’ and shook my hair in his direction. I have never felt such a pure surge of outrage before.

That was only one time, but I still feel it. The indignity of it. Iranian women endure this every day.
I know that being a foreigner gave me the freedom to defy the law. Only that fact gave me the space to do so.

When I returned to Amsterdam, I felt the tremedous strain the gender-based restrictions had put on me. I had not fully realized that the regime’s restrictive rules had affected me that much. When I was there, I was more aware of the immense kindness of Iranian people and their easy acceptance of me. But upon return at Schiphol and later in Amsterdam, I kept jumping around and dancing, skipping and twirling, loving the freedom to do so and not to worry about the length of my blouse, my hair, my body and about the constant looming potential of getting punished for doing something wrong or breaking some repressive rule. At Schiphol, while dancing and twirling, clapping my hands and singing, I had an overwhelming urge to kiss the ground. My partner compared me with those videos when animals are released, frolicking happily in the grass, and I realized that he was right. That was exactly how I felt. An immense surge of happines and freedom.

A release of the constant pressure. Allowed to move freely again. To express myself. To not worry whether the countoures of my body might be showing. To not worry whether I finally pushed the boundaries too far.

To. Be. Free. Again.

For the first time in my life, I fully grasp the fundamental blessing of freedom and have tasted a small part of the suffocating effects of oppression, constantly looming, even when ‘nothing happens’. It’s there. It’s always there. And it is suffocating, oppressive and slowly eating away at your soul.
So much of who I am is because freedom has allowed me to be.


Masih Alinejad, the tireless activist against forced hijab calls upon all foreign female visitors to Iran to NOT wear the headscarf in support of the fight for freedom for women in Iran.


“Photography and me”
Marinka Masséus Photography


After finishing her MBA, Marinka’s studies in Buddhist Psychology guided her philosophical journey and the Photo Academy in Amsterdam stimulated her to channel her concepts and feelings into images.

Gender equality is a main theme running through Marinka’s work. She feels strongly about the importance of raising this subject and she just returned from Iran where she worked on two projects concerning the position of women.

Marinka’s photography revolves around people and is a constant reflection of her passion and fascination for human nature and the way we live our lives. Especially topics concerning injustice and inequality are a driving force behind her work.  

Her utmost wish for her photography is the chance to make a difference. By creating awareness and touching people’s feelings, since she believes that an image is indeed stronger than a 1000 words. 

Ultimately for me it’s about connecting with people, I remember each and every moment that they, for a brief moment, let me into their lives.

I thank them all.”   

Marinka Masséus Photography

Marinka Masséus 

KvK 51904810

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