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Christina Fakhry 06 Jun 2016

The Hijab: Somewhere Between The Public And Private

In addition to stirring socio-political controversies and raising questions of gender equality in a number of Western communities, the veil serves as a perfect cultural expression of the duality between the public and the private in our life as humans.

Young Lebanese photographer Dayana Salem Al-Masri sought to document this subtle reality in her photography series “Observable Balconies” by choosing the balcony setting as an ultimate visual representation of the public vs. private dichotomy in the lives of veiled women.

“Their balconies detach from their private space, they’re public, it’s no longer home. My series presents one of many angles to explore and understand this difference,” she told Beirut.com.

Born and raised in Kuwait, Al-Masri enjoyed combining portraits of her family and friends and landscape pictures into memorial photo albums. She then decided to take her passion to the next level by returning to her home country a few years ago to major in photography.

“Growing up with a veiled sister, I came to notice how different her daily life was from mine. At first I started to research what connects people to the outer world, then my focus shifted towards what might break the communication know-how between these veiled women and the mass,” Al-Masri explained.

“It was then that I realized that it’s their categorization of public and private that diverges and breaks their communication, putting additional boundaries on the perspective of others,” she added.

Al-Masri took up documentary as a photographic style when executing project, capturing candid yet exquisitely stylized images of her subjects as seen across their terraces, from a variety of angles. “Reality brings a lot of material to a photographer and I would love to explore it more as a I grow in my career,” she noted.

By tackling a delicate socio-cultural theme, Al-Masri hopes to challenge rigid social stereotypes and spark reflections and conversations around the lives and rituals of people through her art.

“What started out as a documentary of veiled women ended up documenting Lebanese cityscapes, the community, women and most importantly the city’s diverse spirit and contradictory colors that somehow always end up rhyming together,” she concluded.

“Observable Balconies” will translate into a solo exhibition of the same name at ARTLAB, Gemmayzeh, from July 19 to July 23.