EXHIBITION: THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 24 THROUGH THURSDAY OCTOBER 15
OPENING RECEPTION: THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 24, 5:00PM-8:00PM
Enduring Power: The Middle Eastern and Iranian Woman’s Story is a collection of work by seven female photographers from Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran, examining the lives and livelihoods of women in that region.
Apart from their exceptional photographic work, these photographers were selected in great part due to their diverse coverage of topics regarding women, spanning across many different countries throughout the Middle East.
Peering behind the veil and headscarves to reveal real individuals is a delicate but necessary boundary to push. It is so vital to the future and progress of women in these cultures to be seen succeeding, thriving, and discovering – all on their own. Whether they are generations apart or contemporaries, progress is achieved when women grow and improve on their own terms, separate from the male influence that so strongly permeates their public culture and the worldwide media. There is an almost constant push/pull between the individualized and powerful identity of the Middle Eastern woman, and the attempts by culture and government to erase that identity.
This collection of images illustrate how that sense of identity has not been erased. This collection is a celebration of the progress and growth that has happened, and a tangible foreshadowing of what is still to come.
The division of gender throughout daily life creates two very different worlds within the same culture. The photographic perspective in this exhibition is unique to women who are inside these cultures and countries. These 7 photographers are not outsiders, tourists, or just passing through, and the familiarity and camaraderie felt between ‘insiders’ is tangible in these photographs. Being a female photographer creates uniquely privileged access into the lives and experiences of the Middle Eastern woman – access into a world that men seldom are privy to. Respecting this access while still honoring the truth in moments witnessed requires grace and trust. There is fragility in that access. As an Iranian male photographer, I admire this perspective, knowing full well the limitations and privileges of my own gender.
Collectively, these photographs speak of the greater issues of identity and resilience, and the strength of women within these regions. They are empowering themselves – against all obstacles – through their own will. A clear defiance and sense of individuality is present (an especially sacred quality in a world of appearance commonality), and there is no apologizing for any of it. These women are not weak or afraid. They are resilient, powerful, and energized. They command your attention and your interest.
Let their stories be heard.
-Sina Araghi, curator
Enduring Power – Artist Bios
Razan Alzayani is a Bahrain born photographer who has been working in the Gulf region as a visual storyteller for over five years, continually enjoying the interplay of working with still and video mediums. She currently works as a video journalist for the Associated Press based in Dubai. Prior to that, Razan worked as a multimedia producer and later as a staff photojournalist for The National Newspaper based in Abu Dhabi. With a degree from Boston University, an impressive resume and several awards over the last two years, she is a very strong contributor to this exhibition, showcasing her passion for issues that involve women and communities that are often misrepresented or that are hard to access.
Laura Boushnak is a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian photographer. Her work ranges from conflict photography to pictorial storytelling. After completing a BA in sociology at the Lebanese University, Boushnak began her photography career covering news for the Associate Press in Lebanon, and later as a photo editor and photographer for Agence France-Presse (AFP). Her nine-year wire service experience included covering hard news in conflicts such as the war in Iraq and the 2006 Israel-Hesbollah war. Her photographs have been published in the New York Times, The Guardian, The National Geographic, and Le Monde, among others.
Since 2008, Boushnak has been working as a freelance photographer, devoting more time to her long-term projects and focusing on Arab women and education as highlighted in her “I Read I Write” series, seen here as part of the Enduring Power exhibition.
In addition, Boushnak also co-founded RAWIYA collective, bringing together the work and experience of female photographers from the Middle East. She was recently named one of the 2014 TEDGlobal fellows.
Boushra Y. Almutawakel was born in Sana’a, Yemen. She studied in the United States and in Yemen, obtaining a BSBA in International Business at the American University in Washington, DC. As a student, she became interested in photography, working as a photojournalist on the university newspaper and yearbook, and as a photo lab assistant at the School of Communications. Following her return to Yemen in the mid 90s, she co-founded the Al-Halaqa in Sana’a, an artists’ group that created a space for discourse and exhibitions, and forged links with international artists.
In 1999, she was honored as the first Yemeni Woman Photographer by the Empirical Research and Women’s Studies Centre at Sana’a University.
Almutawakel has worked at the Ministry of Human Rights in Sana’a, focusing on women’s issues, as well as a consultant on cultural affairs for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, organizing events such as the Smithsonian symposium “Windows on the Cultural Heritage of Yemen,” and other exhibits, lectures, concerts and film screenings on Yemen.
Her personal photography projects have received much acclaim for their work dealing with women and identity, including the “Mother/Daughter/Doll” and “What If” series featured here as part of the Enduring Power exhibition.
Hagar Sobeea is a graphic artist and documentary photographer based in Alexandria, Egypt. Sobeea received her masters in set design at the University of Alexandria. Her most recent documentary photography projects include “365Days,” and “100Signs and 100Strangers.”
Her portrait of a young girl, as seen in the Enduring Power exhibition, was taken in the impoverished neighborhood of El Max in Alexandria, Egypt. In a neighborhood well-known for its fishing community and the modest homes that lie directly on the canal, Sobeea observed a young girl’s refreshing display of toughness as the only girl who was playing with a group of boys.
Hamideh Zolfaghari is an Iranian photographer based in Tehran. Her photographs highlight the extreme contrasts between men and women in the Iranian culture, and draw links between the nomadic tribal life in Iran and the modern life of those who live in major cities like Tehran.
Zolfaghari studied Creative Photography at San Jose State University, later worked as a photographer for UNICEF, and for the past two decades, has committed to herself to “tell the stories of those that cannot express it themselves.”
Her photographs have been exhibited in galleries across France, England, Switzerland and California, receiving numerous awards and honors for her work along the way.
Maryam Saeedpoor is an Iranian photographer based in Tehran. She studied photojournalism at the University of Tehran and has worked as a freelance photographer for the past 10 years. Saeedpoor’s work has been published in various Iranian news publications, including “Hamshahri” newspaper.
Sara Sasani is an Iranian photographer based in Tehran. She has an associate degree in photojournalism and a BA in sociology from Azad University. Sasani’s work has been exhibited in over 10 photography exhibitions and published in such books as “My Yazd”, by X-Change Culture Science, and “Iran, Winter Journey”, by Fotohof publishing.