A new exhibition ‘Behind the Veil’ opens this week in Doha, Arabia and is a visual study of the women of the country by the “grande dame” of photography, Eve Arnold.
Eve Arnold who died in 2012, aged 99 was a specialist documenter of people; her photographs going far beyond the boundaries of most photographers, particularly female photographers of her time; capturing everything from politicians to celebrities, migrant workers and the poor. She had an extraordinary career demonstrating great diversity and ferocious tenacity as a woman and a photographer. She was the first woman to join the Magnum Photos agency in 1957; an indication of her determination and ambition and a woman who reflected commitment and empathy in her work on such topics as Black Harlem, communist Soviet Union, political America and post-revolution China.
This exhibition for which Metro is proud to have produced and framed
all the C type prints
is a collection of images from a project Arnold undertook in 1968, after a chance sighting of a speech by the Tunisian President Bourguiba in which he was exhorting the women of his country to ‘come out from behind the veil’ and ‘into the twentieth century’. As a woman working in a male profession, Arnold was fascinated by the position of women in society, and hearing these words sparked something in her and she began what would turn into an ambitious three year-long project to document women of Arabia and the Islamic world.
Arnold said: “I have been poor and I wanted to document poverty; I had lost a child and I was obsessed with birth; I was interested in politics and I wanted to know how it affected our lives; I am a woman and I wanted to know about women.”
‘Behind the Veil’ was a difficult assignment for Arnold but persevering she built a collection of images showing the women of Afghanistan, Egypt, Oman, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates as central figures within the community; as mothers, sisters and wives and also as industrious workers and individuals embarking on an exciting journey towards modernity.
She also obtained unprecedented access through a close personal relationship with Sheikha Sana Bint Mana Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the niece of the Ruler of Dubai, to photograph her in her harem. This trusting connection to Sheikha Sana resulted in Arnold’s acclaimed 1971 photographs of the wedding celebrations of her daughter, Sheikha Alia, to the Crown Prince of Dubai, HRH Maktoum bin Rashid.