Jodie Bateman wins the Female in Focus 2021 award in the Stories Category

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The photographer’s series, My Hijab Has a Voice: Revisited, hopes to uplift the voices of Muslim women living in the UK

In Jodie Bateman’s My Hijab Has a Voice: Revisited, the artist engages in a heartfelt exploration of the lived experiences of Muslim women. Staging herself and her younger sister in poses that mimic historical paintings known for their objectification of women, she challenges the conventions of traditional portraiture. She offers a way of seeing female subjects fully clothed while still captivating, their gazes piercing out at the viewer. 

Born in 1995, Bateman grew up in Earlsfield, London. She converted to Islam in December 2017. In 2018, after taking a year out of university for her maternity leave, she began work on the project My Hijab Has a Voice. For the work in this series, Bateman is winner of Female in Focus 2021 in the Stories Category.

© Jodie Bateman.
© Jodie Bateman.

“My first time shooting around this theme I was at home with a digital camera just making self-portraits and trying to express a sense of positivity with the hijab,” she remembers. Then, her research took her down a rabbit hole of hateful websites about Muslim women and she realised how misunderstood they are. “I was learning so much about my new religion and the hijab, and it really hurt me to see what I found,” she says. Determined to do more, she began working on My Hijab Has a Voice: Revisited

As Muslim women are most often portrayed wearing black, Bateman chose to use a bold spectrum of pinks and purples in this project. “I also chose to shoot the images at home to let the viewers into a Muslim woman’s private space, in the hopes that it would humanise me, and show how much more I am than just a piece of cloth.” 

© Jodie Bateman.

Contrary to what some may believe, she says, “the veil doesn’t stop us from mixing in society. In fact, it’s the thing that helps us do so comfortably.” Wearing the hijab has allowed Bateman to move through the Western world no longer being judged for how she looks, she says, which in itself has given her freedom. 

Bateman says that what needs to change the most about how our societies represent Muslim women is the role of the media. “[The media] feeds and perpetuates a narrative of us being oppressed, brainwashed by our husbands, and only modernising our hijabs against our families wishes, in order to ‘fit in’,” she says. “And this is typically followed by acts of banning the niqab, burkini and even banning the hijab in professional places [of work] in some countries.” So often spoken for by the media, and by men, this series is Bateman’s attempt to make a space for the voices of Muslim women, and return agency over how they are portrayed.

Based between Surrey and London, Bateman is now working with other women who wear a hijab, developing her project into a more collaborative endeavour. By sharing stories and making portraits, she hopes to confront the public with ever more Muslim womens’ voices, in continually uplifting and empowering ways.

© Jodie Bateman.

Contrary to what some may believe, she says, “the veil doesn’t stop us from mixing in society. In fact, it’s the thing that helps us do so comfortably.” Wearing the hijab has allowed Bateman to move through the Western world no longer being judged for how she looks, she says, which in itself has given her freedom. 

Bateman says that what needs to change the most about how our societies represent Muslim women is the role of the media. “[The media] feeds and perpetuates a narrative of us being oppressed, brainwashed by our husbands, and only modernising our hijabs against our families wishes, in order to ‘fit in’,” she says. “And this is typically followed by acts of banning the niqab, burkini and even banning the hijab in professional places [of work] in some countries.” So often spoken for by the media, and by men, this series is Bateman’s attempt to make a space for the voices of Muslim women, and return agency over how they are portrayed.

Based between Surrey and London, Bateman is now working with other women who wear a hijab, developing her project into a more collaborative endeavour. By sharing stories and making portraits, she hopes to confront the public with ever more Muslim womens’ voices, in continually uplifting and empowering ways.

The Female in Focus 2021 exhibition will be shown at Green Space Miami as part of the inaugural  Women Photographers International Archive (WOPHA) Congress, from 18 November to 18-January 2022

With thanks to this year’s sponsor: MPB, the world’s largest online platform for used photo and video kit

To find out more about Female in Focus, click here.

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London