My Hijab is My Crown – Exhibition by Laura Gale
December 11th to December 23rd
These portraits are part of a study of young Muslim women and their interpretation of the hijab. To these girls, their headscarves make them feel liberated and give them freedom. It is most definitely their own choice to wear it.
I wanted the photographs to show the variety of shapes and styles created by each girl with their scarves. Over time, fashion and trends have influenced how the hijab is worn, and this combined with tradition, culture and an individual desire for subtle self-expression has resulted in endless unique styles. These girls are not the shapeless forms portrayed by right-wing media, but wonderfully individual, creative, and most importantly to them, modest, young women.
“My hijab is my crown. When I’m at home I don’t have it on. My hijab gives me my freedom; it doesn’t take it away.”
“Wearing a hijab in a mostly non-Muslim society may be challenging, but this is a positive point because it strengthens one’s personality.”
“I wear it to maintain modesty. In Arabic, it means ‘to cover’ – to cover beauty, which should only be seen by my family and significant other.”
“To me it means being part of something bigger, and also feeling close to others who wear hijabs.”
“I didn’t know the meaning of it when I was younger – I just wanted to look like my Mum. However, now I feel like it helps me stay within my boundaries. I like the way others admire my level of modesty. I feel respected.”
The portraits here are Chemigrams. They were originally taken using a digital camera, but then all the subsequent processes are experimental techniques using traditional photographic darkroom paper and chemicals. It is a hands-on method that produces an otherworldly aesthetic, and requires an understanding of photographic materials. Each image is an original and is dictated by a mixture of calculation and chance. They are cosmic, yet small-scale; a hybrid, but cannot be classified as either a photograph or photogram. Hard to define, and more like paintings than photographs; made up of gestured marks and analogue processes.
The portraits are presented as a typology, in a grid format where you are compelled to compare and contrast. The girls have been remade as silhouettes, but not to be shape-less, but to be shape-full. A single bold outline draws your eye to the distinctiveness of each contour, and the sometimes gravity defying folds of fabric. Taking on the appearance of an elegant Victorian cameo, you cannot tell where the scarf begins and where it ends.