Only a woman would be able to photograph women living in the Muslim world and even some women behind a veil. What sense of truth is present? What perspective is revealed in the eyes of the photographer?
Portraits and Stories of Women in the Middle East Exhibit is open to the public in Geneva at the Museum of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) from September 23rd to January 24, 2010.
Alexandra Boulat, a French photographer and co-founder of the VII Agency, photographed conflict zones for National Geographic, Time, Paris Match. Bringing the sense of inhumanity of war to the breakfast table to millions around the world. From the war in the ex-Yugoslavia: to the Taliban in Afghanistan; the war in Iraq; to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she captured life in absurd realities. Her last assignment before she died too early was to reveal the women in the Muslim world removing the stereotypes and myths.
This collection of photographs are of women from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Palestine. In the exhibit notes, she explains these are
“women from every class of society. The aim of this project was to lift [metaphorically, author’s note] the veil of these women from Muslim societies in a region undergoing economic and political crisis since the wars in Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan. Victims of war in these countries and restricted by the religious and revolutionary institutions in Iran, the women of all the countries photographed are torn between their obligations to follow a strict moral code and the influence of the West. All the women that I photographed have their own story to tell, with grace or naivety and usually with the agreement of a man. From refugees to pilgrims, from suicide bombers to teenagers and oriental baby-dolls, they tell of their conditions, their rituals, their habits, their anger and their joy. In this part of the world, family and honour are the only values.”
Unfortunately, the reality of war is that women bear a tremendous burden of atrocities and hardships. As sophisticated as war is in the modern age, it is still the women who are left to survive on their own. Food, shelter, safety, personal security from rape – women must navigate these precarious situations for herself, her children and her family – hopefully, successfully.
The human cost of revealing the atrocities of war can be heard in Alexandra Boulat’s voice in this Time magazine feature. She says,
“even my eyes are tired of the Palestinian drama sometimes. And, that is why I get caught by the details. Conflict and pain has become ordinary. Look at the ordinary – life without electricity … an empty frig….”
An extraordinary gifted photographer died too early. Her legacy speaks even louder insisting that her eyes not to have been tired in vain. What she captures on film is a powerful tribute to truth and the injustice of war. Alexandra Boulat’s legacy and voice linger to tell the story one more time.
By Keri Douglas, writer/photographer, Washington, DC
Read more at Ode Magazine Exchange.