A Photographer's Positive Perspective featuring Dilan Bozyel

December 03, 2014 0 Comments

It can be used to generate curiosity, conversation, and debate, and one picture can challenge the social norms and stereotypes of an entire people, country, and region.  The Middle East is no exception, and women are using their cameras to express themselves and break down the misguided perceptions of others, both within their own male-dominated societies and among their international audiences.  This is by no means a new phenomenon, but its popularity is constantly growing.  In recent years, major museums throughout the world
have hosted exhibits of Middle Eastern women’s photography.

Yemen and Iran, being two of the Middle East’s most conservative societies, have also produced some of the most well-known Middle Eastern female photographers. Shadi Ghadirian[1] and Newsha Tavakolian[2] of Iran and Boushra Almutawakel[3] of Yemen have had their art featured in the world’s most prestigious magazines,newspapers, and museums on nearly every continent.  Shadi Ghadirian’s famous Qajar series, photographed throughout the 1990’s, shows women in traditional Iranian settings and clothing, captured in traditional black and white.  In each photograph, the woman is holding a piece of ‘modernity’ not often associated by the Western viewer with Iranian women, such as mountain bikes, a Pepsi can, a newspaper, and a boombox. [4]  While Newsha Tavakolian’s work explores similar themes, Boushra Almutawakel tries to dispel preconceived notions of the appearance of veiled Yemeni females with her famous exhibit, ‘The Hijab Series.’[5]

After the events in 2011, the world was saturated with images of what was to be known as the Arab Spring; photos depicting these social movements turned revolutions.  Though these images showed the revolutions from all angles, they also acted as a catalyst for women in the Middle East, bringing women to the forefront once again.  There was a new dialogue in these countries surrounding women's rights, opening a new platform to women photographers.  

Dilan Bozyel
Dilan Bozyel[6] is a Turkish photographer with Kurdish roots.  She is a female photographer in a Middle Eastern country from a historically oppressed group, the Kurds.  In the interview below, Dilan affirms some of the same ideas mentioned above.   

1. Could you please explain your work?  What are the themes you use or the message you are trying to embody in your work?
Sometimes, I am cruelly criticized (especially by men) for being a dreamer and melancholic Eastern woman.  Given the harsh climate, history full of wars, and the geographical condition of the land I was born in (Diyarbakır).  But I believe mankind will not try to find the description of sweet until it tastes the bitter. I feel these sad truths in such a pain that it overflows the blood pumping to my heart. For this reason, I believe that I have to do something through art. We, who are created from the dust of art, have the mission of eternalizing the last beauties of the world, offering descriptions of life to the next generations. I believe in healing force of art.  I feel like I’ve come to this world with this purpose and I know that is the reason I was born in these lands; I came to this world to scatter stories filled with peace and happiness through my photographs.

2.  Do you believe photography has a prominent role in the recent social developments in Turkey, i.e. Gezi Park?

There is a common saying, ‘I won’t believe it until I see it.’ Photography is the only concrete record of the every moment that has been lived. Every detail of the Gezi events was recorded in every frame taken, whether amateur or professional. Every moment from the cruel and lopsided violence of the Police to the how we lived happily when park was left to us, the youth. Half of woke up with the Gezi spirit.  Visual sources had the most important role in this progress.  The Turkish society came this far with stories and legends but the visual power of the photograph has finally found its deserved place. A society who has been awakened will not accept to fall sleep again.

After all the wars and pain suffered in the east of the country, we are beginning to breathe comfortably, almost for the first time. With the start of these good days, there is an emphasis on the importance of women.  This is a good improvement. For the first time, the social and political right to speak was given to the Kurdish women in this country. They can take charge and become a mayor.

No, I can’t call myself a feminist. I believe the world needs men as much as women. What I want to indicate is that for all this time, women were married as children, pushed away, left in the back seat, silenced and humiliated. Women are finally taking their deserved and right place in nature. In Turkey, with this reduction of race and sex separation I am witnessing the sound of the wings of a once injured, but now recovered, white bird flying off in the sky.  It is a good feeling.

For further reading on female photographers in the Middle East, please see the links below.


[1] http://shadighadirian.com/
[2] http://www.newshatavakolian.com/
[3] http://boushraphoto.com/about.html
[4] http://shadighadirian.com/index.php?do=photography&id=9#item-1
[5] http://boushraphoto.com/hijabseries.html
[6] mhttp://www.dilanbozyel.co


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