Perception requires all senses. Awareness demands all love.
I had the experience to be both photographer and model in a project where non-Muslim women are in the traditional Muslim raiment.
My invitation as imager and observer grew into learner as the project's creator, Nourah, related to me her experience as a veiled woman visiting the West.
Nourah told me of the time that a man hit the back of her niece's head, while shopping for cloths wearing the hijab and said "I hate that you wear that thing." She told me about a man on the train who whispered "terrorist" in her ear just before he jumped out of the car and into the crowd before she could think to respond. I sat with my granola and hot coffee while she told me of the time that a man approached her and declared "God does not exist!"
Learning from Nourah means learning more about myself. My own feelings as the stranger always as a mixed race Black girl raised in a small Virginia town. I left at the age of 18 thinking I would find a place of belonging. My search took me to the mid west, the north east, eastern and western Europe. Now that I am back to the place that never felt like home, I've been distressed. Connecting with Nourah has helped me find a sense of center.
I photographed several participants in her project all of which are shown below. Each agreed to two interviews. The first involved a discussion about photographs of Nourah and the second an analysis regarding the photographs of themselves in in the veil.
I learned, no matter the clothing, one must try to see the human being first.
The photographs of me where taken by Nourah herself. Photo of Nourah by Howard Zehr. All other photographs of participants by me.