Photographer Sedirea takes us on an intimate journey across the Iranian desert

Capturing her friend Afsoon among sandy mountains and shallow lakes, the photographer weaves a spellbinding impression of feminine resilience

رز صحرایی (Persian: Desert Rose) is part of an intimate series of images taken on a journey across the Iranian deserts leading into Afghanistan.

A desert may be defined as a desolate and barren tract of land, but my eyes never tired at the sight of hours and hours of soft-edged mountains in tender hues ever-changing as the sun rose and faded away.

My journey led me through an oasis filled with pomegranate and fig trees under a large canopy of date palms. Hundreds of butterflies swirled around milk thistle, feeding on nectar. Soil in shades of apricot led me towards a well where local women sat selling spices to villagers. In the highlands the ground was dark red and cracked, scattered with holes in which creatures resided. I could only make out a scorpion, the rest of what may have slumbered beneath my feet is still a mystery.

After a few hours traveling further, a valley of large fields of delicate Damask roses sprawled in front of me, growing in what one would suppose to be the hardest of conditions, blooming once a year and cultivated to extract the finest rose water and oils that can be found. The flowering was perfectly timed with the seasonal salt lake; gazing at the ripples stained by red tide algal blooms I was reminded of the tone of the roses I had seen thousands of miles away, I felt humbled by the versatility and vastness of this land.

In a way the desert reminds me of women: its soft silhouette, its resilience, and what it brings forth given the most strenuous conditions; the flora it protects, and the fauna it nourishes while ever-evolving.

On my last stretch into the Afghan desert, I met my dear friend Afsoon. Her name means “charm, spell, bewitchment” in Farsi. Her mother had just passed away, yet she insisted on us exploring this last stretch of my journey together. Introspective, I wove together delicate feminine symbols in the sweltering heat of the desert.

These images are dedicated to Afsoon’s mother, and all courageous women.