An Idea Behind A Burqa

Photograph — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

When possible, as the magazine photographer that I have been I have avoided being political, religious or nasty with my photographs. When assigned to photograph white collar crooks I have always tried to be neutral in my approach. I do remember once working with a writer (so poor that his jeans were torn because they were just plain old) who had been assigned to write about the Vancouver private school St. George’s. From the very beginning he told me that he disliked the concept of private schools. I made a resolution that I would take pleasant and positive photographs to compensate for the negativity to come.

I once had to photograph a man who had been accused of murdering his wife and of leaving her dismembered body in garbage bag by the side of a road in Switzerland. He had been found not guilty. When he faced my camera the idea that I was going to dramatically light his face and then his hands, individually, I just could not do it. I could not find the man guilty with my photography even if most people thought he had been set free on a judicial technicality.

When my tango partner (and photographic model), the beautiful 6ft tall Indiana approached me with an idea. I had second thoughts. Somehow she had been reading of the plight of women in Afghanistan and wanted to do her part to protest what the Taliban had been subjecting women to. “I want to do something rude, to prove a point. You are going to photograph me in a burqa and then little by little I will reveal my body parts until I will then cover my whole body but show my face which, according to the Taliban is true pornography.” And so I did. What you see here is a scan of the first picture done as a small giclée.

The idea for this blog came over this weekend as I reread D.M.Thomas’s novel Lady With a Laptop. This is the paragraph that inspired me to post the picture.

Dear Mr. Hopkins,
I have been command to write to you to inform your novel “Transplanted Hearts” has be shortlist for Shalimar Prize. As you shall know, this distinguishing prize is for best and most spiritously enhancing book from non-Islamic country. The exact amount of prize varies per year, but is always suffice to relieve author of all financial anxieties for many years. Before the last judgment takes place, I have to ask you one question. Should you be award prize, we would have be sure that you shall not use occasion to propagandize on behalf of author Salmon Rushdie, but on contrary express sympathy to Islamic position. May we have your assure on this? I look forward to hear from you. Yours sincerely,
Ibrahim Rafsanjani

Lady With A Laptop D.M. Thomas 1996

Link to: An Idea Behind A Burqa

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