Perspective on compassion

An essential element of my work is female representation in art, especially the representation of Middle Eastern women. Artists making work in or about the Middle East must constantly combat ‘orientalist visions’ that remain rooted in the collective Western unconscious. Prevailing issues surrounding conflict, war, or the one-dimensional interpretation of women covered by hijabs (veils) remain validating stereotypes for work from this region. My work instead takes a contemporary look at women living in everyday circumstances and focuses on building visual, but also representational, associations between the portrayal of women in the United States and the Middle East, ultimately allowing women to identify with each other through common life experiences.

I hope my photographs can act as moments of contemplation in finding beauty in our shared humanity – in the universal as well as personal experience of women encountering the challenges of growing up and growing old regardless of background, culture and religion.

Huguette and Brigitte, Ghazir Lebanon, 2014, Unspoken Conversations series

Huguette Caland is a famous Lebanese artist. She was getting older and sadly not able to paint anymore. As I started photographing her with her daughter Brigitte, the emotion between mother and daughter was very palpable and I started crying myself. When I did, it made them both cry, so I put down my camera. At that moment, Huguette, who had seemed lost in her own world up to that point said: “You are an artist. Don’t stop. Emotions are important.” I made that image as I was crying myself. She gave me permission to do so. Huguette has since passed in 2019.

Khiyam, Lebanon, 2019, She series

I met Alae because she reached out to me on Instagram asking to collaborate. I thought it was an oxymoron as she is fully covered in back, which is usually about modesty. I went to her page and it said: “Follow me – I’m toxic”. I thought that was brilliant and I became interested in meeting her. She shattered my own stereotypes about the full black covering. She is always extremely involved in the artistic process. She has tons of ideas and she is very adventurous. It has been a treat working with her and we ended up collaborating on many different occasions since. She is wild, creative, and willing to 100% put herself out there.