The past decade witnessed significant political and economic transformations in Saudi Arabia, many of which have affected the role and position of women. Having said that, there remain many cultural norms and codes that dictate the ways in which Saudi women are required to behave, especially in the absence of family members and guardians, to regulate their behaviour. My project reveals the complex ways in which single Saudi women in the diaspora renegotiate their social and gender roles, while navigating the very different social worlds and norms of Saudi Arabia and the UK. The resulting photographs contradict many commonly held ideas about Saudi women, as well as challenge visual tropes frequently associated with them.
The existing registry of internationally viewed images of Saudi women comments, primarily, on their experiences in Saudi Arabia (for example the works by Jodi Cobb, Olivia Arthur, Ziyah Gafic). Furthermore, while some photographers engaged with, and provided some insights into, the lives of single Saudi women in their bodies of work, none had concentrated exclusively on this group as a specific category. Pursuing this topic stems from my desire to shed light on a particular group of women who are largely, publicly and politically, invisible in Saudi Arabia and abroad. This project’s aim is to offer new perspectives and to widen the debate concerning the representation and portrayal of Saudi women.
Photography was an ideal medium to explore this subject. By employing various strategies to conceal the participants faces, I was able to navigate boundaries and restrictions imposed on the participants by their families and society.
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