Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Many things to think about

For the portrait brief I decided to focus on Muslim women, particularly western women that have converted to Islam. I have done some portraits on this subject before and wanted to explore further and try some different approaches. I found a really good lady (or so I thought) who agreed to pictures but changed her mind after I taken the photographs! The reason was that her husband got really upset about it when he found out, she said I could not use them for anything. I will respect that apart from putting one up here on the blog. (below) I was really not happy with the pictures I had taken anyway, some of the photos are really cliche, her looking out of the window, trapped in her house, so what was I thinking? It was raining and the house was not very attractive. It is a real shame since her story is so interesting, she is in her third marriage, she was the second wife in her previous marriage which she finally could not cope with. She converted to Islam because after her first divorce she felt the church would not accept her anymore. Religion is her obsession.

Awful picture

I tried Iman a German girl who I have met briefly before through a contact, I thought she be good for close ups since you can kind of tell from her face that she is northern European. To stick to head shots was really difficult and new to me, I find my self wanting to include more of the scene, stepping back.


Iman is a student of linguistics and lives in a house with two other Muslim girls, Aia from Egypt (also student - Visual communication)and Leila from France (working) I asked if I could photograph them together. I wanted to illustrate who many Muslims chose London because of its multiculturalism. Iman says life for her is so much easier in London, in Germany she is not treated as a German anymore. I had arranged to shoot them on the stairs outside the British museum this did not work out, it was hard to get them together during daylight time and I had to opt for stairs outside The Tower of London, with the light coming down very fast. I did not do very well, made a stupid mistake in many of the images, where the girls further back are slight out of focus and the background is not right. Did some more at their house. I used flash and it is really harsh I really, really have to sort out my flash skills. I always desperately try to avoid using flash.

Aia, Leila and Iman

Through Iman, I met Julia another convert, I was interested in her because she has a n MA in theology and converted to Islam half way through. Julia does not wear a headscarf. I think that it is important to include that not all Muslim women do, but it is really hard to convey this in the photographs..... and I don't want to photograph her standing outside a mosque exactly.


Aqeela is my third person, I have photographed her before but wanted to try some new things, her putting her hijab on looking in the mirror etc. The light was very good coming through the windows and I managed to use natural light reflecting a bit in some of the shots and using tripod for some.



I also went to Trafalgar Square for 7am the other day to meet up with Sheila from Save the Pigeons Organisation. Since the feeding ban came in to place volunteers from this organisation has been feeding the birds every morning, but are now forced to feed just of the square. I had this image in my head of loads of pigeons flying around her. Sheila said the pigeons had gone a lot more shy lately because of lack of human contact. I came back with a set of pictures that did not work at all.
So it has been a pretty step learning curve. I enjoyed the portraits, the interaction with people is very rewarding. I need to practise a lot more on composition and light and most of all to be more assertive in these situations. There are so many things to think about, the most important being representation I think.


Sco said...

Interesting how you were stuck for ideas with the woman without the hijab. The picture you don't like is by far my favourite one by the way. Funny old world!

rhian clugston said...

it's funny sco got theer first...but yes, the one you call "awful" is my favorite too. i didn't see her as trapped, just nosey (in a nice way) looking out the window is something everyone does just to see what's going on. maybe there was a bit much empty window in the shot, but you seemed to capture something more personal about her. i am not sure what it was, maybe she is just more photogenic. you even say in the introduction that you thought she would be a really good subject so maybe there was something. shame that her husband wasn't so keen, but then, that adds to the story.

Dean C.K. Cox said...

"Awful picture" is also one of my favorites. And I like Aqeela very much as well.

Silva said...

I liked the fact that you took on the challnge of taking pics of Julia. Of course her picture would not work alone, but it works as part of a series of portraits. It manages to convey the idea that there are different ways to build a muslim identity, an idea that is important to explore especially now that muslim is seen as = veil.
You also took a great challenge in taking pics of converted muslim women by the way. You really explained well how difficult it is to go behond the conventional "muslim identity" which is adopted by the converted and capture the individual behond the "norm"...

Michael Barrientos: said...

I agree, your so called awful picture is actually quite nice. This is an interesting project and it is fascinating to see how you and Jono who is also doing a headscarf project are approaching the subject. Perhaps, you two could do a group show.