Winner LensCulture Portrait Awards 2017
Susan White, Photography Director Vanity Fair Magazine on my LensCulture Portrait Awards winning series 'My Stealthy Freedom - Iran':

"By combining social and political commentary with aesthetics in her series, 'My Stealthy Freedom Iran', Marinka Masséus makes a statement about women’s rights, specifically in relation to the forced wearing of hijabs, chadors and burkas. With her images, Masséus addresses a woman’s right to choose whether to be “seen” or not. Wearing colorful, airy fabrics that seem to resist gravity, the sitters might belie the actual burden of wearing such garb. Instead, what is revealed is a bit of the wearer’s personality. We may not be able to see their faces but we can feel the force of their spirits. The hijab can be a state of mind as well as a state of dress and, for me, these portraits speak to a growing resistance toward repressive control, sartorial or otherwise."

  | Please click on photos to see the complete series |

 | My Stealthy Freedom Iran | Tehran © 2017

- LensCulture Portrait Awards 2017
- Shortlisted Felix Schoeller Photo Award 2017
LensCulture Exposure Awards 2018
- LifeFramer COLORS feb 2018
- LifeFramer Collection
- The Guardian | UK
- Il Post | IT
- Times of Israel |IL
- HuffPost | DE
- La Stampa | IT

and others, for extended list of publications, go to awards and publications

This project reflects on forced hijab in Iran, a literal and metaphorical boundary imposed upon Iranian women. As recent protests have shown, many Iranian women hate compulsory hijab, they see it as a symbol of oppression, forced upon them not by choice or personal beliefs but by an oppressive regime. For them it has become to represent the inequality and discrimination Iranian women face because of their gender. 

Every day, Iranians, especially the women, defy the regime courageously by small acts of defiance. By wearing the hijab too low, the colors too bright, the pants too tight or the manteau too short. Together these constant acts of bravery are affecting change, slowly but visibly evolving. The regime responds to this with regular crack-downs - when women are arrested and harassed - and by creating new laws, like the ban for women to ride a bicycle.

With the windows of my Tehran apartment covered with tinfoil to ensure that the flash would not be visible from outside, we were safe to create and let creativity flow. The women threw their brightly colored headscarf in the air and as it inescapably floated back to them, I captured their act of defiance. 

 | Silent Voices - L(G)BT Iran | Tehran © 2017

- 1st place winner Zilveren Camera 2017 'Documentair Internationaal'

This series reflects on the vulnerable and dangerous circumstances of lesbian women in Iran and is the result of brave LGBT+ women willing to work with me in Tehran to raise awareness despite the risk for their personal safety. The courage of these strong women is truly inspirational. 

The situation of lesbian rights in Iran is particularly complex, since Iranian lesbians face double discrimination - first as women and then as lesbians. Many girls are desperately fighting to escape forced marriage. Under Iran’s civil code, a wife must submit to the will of her husband (tamkeen), which includes always being sexually available to her husband. Resistance by women to these power dynamics may be met by abuse and violence, which can be perpetrated with impunity. Often, women are unable to escape these dire conditions, as many are economically dependent on their husbands or other male guardians. The crime of marital rape does not exist under Iran’s penal code.

Even though mosaheqeh, or the rubbing of female genitalia between two or more women, is punishable under Iranian law by flogging of 100 lashes and can lead to imprisonment, abuse and even torture, the lesbian women I’ve met in Iran shared with me that they are more afraid of their families than of the government. This fact is also reflected in the report of OutRight International. The constant fear of being disowned, rejected and/or assaulted by their families often leads to depression, drug abuse and suicide attempts.

The fact that many Iranian lesbians “go underground” and lead secret lives out of fear, has given rise to a common misperception that Iranian lesbians are few in number, or they are not discriminated against and do not face serious challenges and risks, including to their health and well-being. Because of these misconceptions, lesbian women in Iran are not receiving the (international) support their situation deserves.


   | Ancient Rhythm II | Brazil © 2015

- Silver winner MIFA Moscow Photo Awards 2017
- Winner 2nd place IPA International Photography Awards 2016
- Honorable Mention Px3 - Prix de la Photographie Paris 2016
- Honorable Mention TIFA Tokyo 2016

At the World Indigenous Games 2015 in Brazil, I used long shutter speed to capture the indigenous energy - to paint the athlete’s ancient rhythm. The resulting soft images connect us to our roots, to the old drawings in caves dating back to prehistoric times - universal and fundamentally innate to all of us.

But, the hazy imagery is also a metaphor for the fact that indigenous people are fading.

Everywhere, so-called 'civilization' is closing in on them, stripping them off their land, their food and their way of life.

Their land is being taken, their rights trampled, their way of life is being destroyed and they are being captured and killed. For land, for money, for power, for greed.

They are the only humans left on earth who live like our ancestors thousands of years ago. Living off the land, leaving no footprint, in harmony with their environment and with respect to all living things. And they are being annihilated.

I feel that this is one of the most shameful injustices of our times. Future history books will judge the fact that we stood by and did nothing.

  Under the Same Sun | Tanzania © 2016

- IPA Photographer of the Year 2016 - Lucie Award
- IPA 'People Photographer of the Year' 2016
- Winner 1st place IPA 2016 - People
- Winner 2nd place IPA 2016 - Political
- Silver winner Px3 - Prix de la Photographie Paris 2016
- Featured at Px3 exhibition 2016 in Paris
- Color Awards 'Photographer of the Year' 2nd place
- Winner first place International Color Awards
- Silver and Bronze winner TIFA Tokyo 2016
- Silver winner ND Awards 2016
- Gold winner MIFA Moscow International Foto Awards 2017
- Winner 3rd place Kuala Lumpur Portrait Awards 2017
- Shortlisted Alfred Fried Photography Award 2017

This photo series was created in collaboration with the Josephat Torner Foundation and ‘Stichting Afrikaanse Albino's’ to raise awareness about the circumstances of people with albinism living in Africa, specifically Tanzania.

In Tanzania, when you have albinism, you are thought to be evil. There even is a price on the head of children with albinism since killing a person with albinism is considered to bring good luck. The fears and superstitions surrounding albinism run very deep in Tanzanian society. So deep that many women who give birth to a child with albinism are told to kill the baby at birth. If she refuses, she and the baby will become outcasts. 

Many children with albinism are denied the most fundamental human rights. They are despised and taught that they are evil, that their existence is a curse. They live in constant fear of brutal attacks.

Many of those who have been attacked are young children. In December of 2014, a 4 year-old girl with albinism named Pendo Emmanuelle, was taken from her mother’s arms. Police have yet to find her body. In February 2015, Yohana Bahati, a boy of just 18 months, was taken from his home, his mother’s face slashed with machetes as she tried to protect her son. She narrowly survived. Days later, little Yohana’s body was recovered from a forest, where he was found face down in the mud with his arms and legs hacked off.

Because of killings like this, many children with albinism now live in camps. Rejected by and cut-off from their families, they live separate from society in order to keep them safe. In some of the camps the living circumstances are horrible, with even basic care lacking. And this separation doesn’t solve the problems. It doesn’t help with integration. It doesn’t give them a chance to grow into valued and respected members of society. They are secluded, kept apart, hidden, often mistreated and shamed. That’s why the mission of the Josephat Torner Foundation is social acceptance and inclusion.

Besides the superstitions, PWA in Tanzania face another threat. Their skin and eyes are without any pigmentation, which means that they have no natural protection against the harsh African sun. This lack of melanin results in severe burns, every day over and over again, which in time turn to brown spots (usually in the face) and in the long run to skin cancer. Dedicated organizations are working hard to get sunscreen to Africa to help protect PWA - organizations like “Under the Same Sun” in Canada or “Stichting Afrikaanse Albino’s” and “Stichting Inside the Same” in the Netherlands. They need all the support they can get.


 | Silent Voices IV |  © 2016  
  Ongoing series on gender inequality

- Bronze and Silver winner TIFA Tokyo Awards 2016
- Honorable Mention Px3 - Prix de la Photographie 2016
- Honorable Mention IPA International Photography Awards 2016
Full feature on Kaltblut Magazine
Full feature print edition Dodho Magazine
- Full Feature on FotoRoom / Fotografia Magazine
- Exhibition at Gallery Beeldend Gesproken, Amsterdam
- Exhibition at Atelier Alen, Munich, Germany
- LifeFramer Editors'Pick - Humans of the World

| Chosen [not] to be | © 2018 - ongoing project

This series is part of the Radical Beauty project, an international photography project which aims to give people with Down's syndrome their rightful place in the visual arts.

In addition, this series intends to further public debate about the ramifications of fast technological advances concerning prenatal screening (NIPT) and the role governments play in the extinction of certain groups of people by steering the conversation and offering one-sided information.

At some point we all have to ask ourselves the tough questions about diversity, inclusion, 'perfection' etc. In other words 'what kind of society do we wish to create'. Where will it end? Are we heading fast towards eugenics?

Upon meeting the young women participating in this project, I was deeply touched by their strong personalities, their honesty, their dedication, their will to succeed, their professionalism and their overwhelming ability to give love in its purest form.

I can honestly say that the photo shoots were some of the happiest and most fulfilling days of my life. I went home filled with love and happiness.

And I am not the only one. 97% of families with a child with Down syndrome say that they are a valuable and precious addition to their family, bringing happiness and joy. And yet, in some countries 94% of women abort when test results come back positive. That opens up the question whether the flow of information is impartial and neutral, conveying the many positive experiences as well as the challenges.

The mothers I met, all said the same, most of the challenges when having a child with Down's lie not with the child itself, but with responses from society. From schools that refuse to enroll their children, comments from strangers, family members, doctors etc. The constant obstacles that hinder their child to fulfill their full potential.

What shocked me most was when they told me that most often, when the results of prenatal screening confirms Down's, the first question the physician asks is "when are we scheduling the abortion". Instead of asking "what do you need from me to make the best decision for you and your family", the woman is immediately steered towards 'getting rid of it'. Which means that the woman in question will never receive the proper information to make an informed decision about her new baby and prospective addition to her family.

The tragic part is, with some countries like Iceland and Denmark boasting "near perfect eradication quotes", soon there will be no more people with Down syndrome to prove them wrong.

| Miscellaneous | Namibia - Angola