Middle Eastern Female Photographers Tell a Compelling Tale

by Katie Fustich


“I feel I inhabit (and perhaps even embody) a crossroads,” says Moroccan artist Lalla Essayadi. She is one of twelve female photographers from the Middle East whose work is set to be showcased in the exhibition “She Who Tells a Story” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Art. The crossroads that Essayadi speaks of is a focal point of the showcase, which comes at a time when the face of the Middle East is ever-changing and the strands of individual identity are so often forgotten.


The pieces in the exhibition range from quietly melancholy to intensely outspoken. The aim of the photographs, however, is unanimous: To express the concept of what it means to be a woman from a culture where the female voice is still so easily suppressed and equally as unrepresented in the West. These expressions are political and personal, questioning both self and society.


Untitled #2 by Gohar Dashti


The artistic styles of the photographs are as different as the stories they tell. The works of Gohar Dashti combine cinematic symbolism with a muted color palette. The aforementioned Lalla Essayadi uses the traditional art of calligraphy to manipulate photographs of non-traditional women. Rania Matar’s pieces are vibrant and fluorescent at first glance, but hide an underlying sense of confinement in their candidness.


Alia by Rania Matar


The motives and means of each artist serve to peel back a different layer on the often preconceived identity of Middle Eastern women and rebuild this perception from the ground up. Most importantly, it gives a minority the capacity to be vulnerable and honest in a way that doesn’t end with them portrayed as the victim.


More information on “She Who Tells a Story”, including a slideshow, note from the curator, and a full list of artists can be found here. The show runs until January 14, 2014.


Lalla Essayadi quote from an interview with Jadaliyya.

All photos from the Boston Museum of Fine Art.


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