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“She Who Tells a Story” Female Photographers from the Middle East

By Jules Ebe on September 18th 2013

© Shadi Ghadirian

© Shadi Ghadirian

Despite cultural and political pressures, women in the Middle East are producing some of the most prominent and influential photographic work in Iran and the Arab world. In societies dominated largely by men, female artists are using photography to explore their own issues of identity, value, and question the world in which they live. They are telling stories through imagery – and we hear them loud and clear.

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is currently presenting a photography exhibit that features the work of women photographers from the Middle East. “She Who Tells a Story” will be up until January 12, 2014, and showcases the work of 12 female photographers.

Each photographer’s work varies in style, form, and subject. Yet, beyond the differences, the overall body of work contains the common thread of addressing the complexities of identity.

"Alia, Beirut, Lebanon," from the series "A Girl and Her Room," 2010  Pigment Print  © Rania Matar, Courtesy of the artist, Carroll and Sons, Boston and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Alia, Beirut, Lebanon,” from the series “A Girl and Her Room,” 2010
Pigment Print
© Rania Matar, Courtesy of the artist, Carroll and Sons, Boston and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

"Mariam, Bourj al Shamali Palestinian Refugee Camp, Tyre, Lebanon," from the series "A Girl and Her Room," 2009  Pigment Print  © Rania Matar, Courtesy of the artist, Carroll and Sons, Boston and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Mariam, Bourj al Shamali Palestinian Refugee Camp, Tyre, Lebanon,” from the series “A Girl and Her Room,” 2009
Pigment Print
© Rania Matar, Courtesy of the artist, Carroll and Sons, Boston and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

"Maral Afsharian," 2010 Chromogenic print   © Newsha Tavakolian, Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery

“Maral Afsharian,” 2010
Chromogenic print
© Newsha Tavakolian, Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery

Dont Forget This Is Not You (for Sahar Lotfi), 2010.  Chromogenic print mounted on aluminum.  © Newsha Tavakolian,  Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery.

Dont Forget This Is Not You (for Sahar Lotfi), 2010.
Chromogenic print mounted on aluminum.
© Newsha Tavakolian, Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery.

Untitled #5, 2008  Chromogenic print  © Gohar Dashti, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie White Project, Paris.

Untitled #5, 2008
Chromogenic print
© Gohar Dashti, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie White Project, Paris.

Untitled, from "Qajar," 1998 Gelatin silver print © Shadi Ghadirian, Courtesy of the artist and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Untitled, from “Qajar,” 1998
Gelatin silver print
© Shadi Ghadirian, Courtesy of the artist and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Untitled, from "Qajar," 1998 Gelatin silver print © Shadi Ghadirian, Courtesy of the artist and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Untitled, from “Qajar,” 1998
Gelatin silver print
© Shadi Ghadirian, Courtesy of the artist and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

To preview more work from these artists and others, be sure to visit Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts “She Who Tells a Story” exhibit from now until January 12, 2014.

Until Next Time . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules

About

is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.

3 Comments

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  1. Kristin Ferguson

    Beautiful and haunting images. Keep up the great work, and keep following your heart…

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  2. Sam

    These photographs convey the impression that majority Arab women are oppressed & sad, constantly trying to break away. Having known many Arab women myself, I know this is NOT the case. Many of them are happily married, have careers, have respect and love where they will. The women I know would be offended at the characterization that their culture is truly oppressive. Google princess Rania, princess Ameera for example – not saying every Arab woman is living that life but these are examples which breaks the myth.

    This doesn’t mean there aren’t oppressive men and oppressed women, just not the norm as news reports and galleries such as the above convey. It would have been more believable if they conveyed the stories of others.

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    • Jules Ebe

      Hi Sam,

      I can definitely see your point of view, though for me, the series by these photographers do not convey a message of oppression (save “Hear” which is directly about the oppression the banned female singers are experiencing). For me, it is more a show of strength and individuality – such as Shadi Ghadirian’s portraits or Rania Matar’s editorials.

      Also, having the works by strong and opinionated Arab women is another example of how this breaks down the Western myth. This is not an outsider looking in and attributing their own bias, but women exploring their own worlds, including the pressure some of them have experienced as female artists.

      But we all come to these images and start to attribute meaning to them based on personal world views. ‘Tis the glory and bane of art – once it is out of the artist’s hands the meaning and purpose belongs to the viewer.

      Thanks for your wonderful comment. I always appreciate hearing another’s point of view.

      Best, Jules

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