There are more photojournalists in the Middle East than anywhere else on the planet. Naturally, this should mean see a range of photographs from the region documenting the whole spectrum of the human experience, but we don’t. Instead, we receive the same images year after year, a demonstration, some youths throwing stones, retaliation by a group of soldiers, images of dead or dying civilians. There are so many similar images that we stop looking. Susan Sontag captured this beautifully in her small but important book, Regarding the Pain of Others. She thought we simply become spectators when presented with photographs of suffering because we see so much of it.
This exhibition is different. Firstly, many of the images are taken with the active participation of the subjects, palpably producing more engaging images, where the subjects are clearly more confident. Secondly, it is the first exhibition produced by women from the Region. The issues of gender, identity, politicized religion, and social justice are all present, though often quietly simmering in the background.
As you enter the exhibition, you are presented with a series of images by Tamara Addul Hadi exploring the sensual beauty of the Arab man, a challenge to the Orientalist image presented since 9/11. Tanya Habjouqa presents us with an image of Muslim women trying to keep fit, in war torn Gaza, by exercising on a derelict football pitch, another of Transsexuals in Jerusalem, a defiant statement in one of the least secular places at present Middle East. Laura Boushnak explores illiteracy amongst women in the region, alongside images of survivors of cluster bombs, and Newsha Tavakolian portrays women singers from Iran who are not allowed to sing solo. In her view photography was a ‘way of breathing within the smothering world of censorship’. There are many more images in the exhibition so you really should just go and visit it.
The New Art Exchange are running a series of lectures and talks alongside the exhibition including a Half Day Symposium: ‘She Who Tells A Story’ Narratives of creativity by Women from the Middle East on 15 February 2013, 2-6pm. For more details visit the NAE website here
REALISM IN RAWIYA
25 JANUARY – 20 APRIL 2013
New Art Exchange, 39 – 41 Gregory Boulevard, Nottingham, NG7 6BE T: 0115 924 8630
Jagdish Patel is a Nottingham based photographer and a Director at the Nottingham Photographers’ Hub a social enterprise helping vulnerable communities enter the creative sector.