MODEST Portraits and stories of women in the Middle East: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank
23 September 2009 – 24 January 2010
From one country to another the photographs taken by reporter Alexandra Boulat (1962-2006) show the world Muslim women live in, together with the differences in their status and the roles they play: war victim, refugee, political militant, academic, TV anchorwoman, teacher at the women’s police academy or oriental baby-doll. These are portraits permeated by their subjects’ everyday struggle to survive, stay healthy and feed and take care of their children.
Looking beyond the immediate family scene, the photographer also shows the political and social activity of those who decide to work at a profession, go out and vote and even involve themselves in extremist operations. The “modesty” of their way of life – underscored by the photojournalist’s choice of title – is in marked contrast with their ongoing struggles.
Shot through with tragedy and hope, each of Alexandra Boulat’s pictures tells a specific story, making us think about those struggles which are not always very far removed from those of other women around the world. At the same time they call into question the existence of a Muslim women’s world reduced to the issues of the veil, arranged marriages and male violence, as Western stereotypes would have it.