In her photography series Clothbound, Toronto-based artist Leila Fatemi challenges Western views of women who wear the hijab. Through careful contrast and juxtaposition, Fatemi’s images raise questions about what the hijab means for a woman’s identity, faith, and how she is viewed by others.
“The use of diptychs reveals the dichotomy between how Muslim women are often construed by Western society and the diverse ways they choose to represent themselves,” Fatemi says of the series. “The first image of each pair removes any notion of identity or individuality from the woman by blending her into the background, rendering her invisible, cloaked by stereotypes. The accompanying image uses a similar aesthetic but, through her gaze and bearing, she assumes a role of power and assertion, granting her an agency she is not typically afforded by Western society.
”Clothbound also focuses on the artist’s role as a modern Muslim woman using photography as her medium of choice. Photography, historically used to reflect and reinforce Orientalist discourses, has likewise been used to deny the Muslim woman agency.“
By taking a place behind the camera, Fatemi both subverts the narrative of the submissive, oppressed Muslim woman, and also offers other women the opportunity to be portrayed in the way they want to be seen.