Gazelle Samizay’s series Upon My Daughter is about marriage. It is equally about being suffocated by the traditions and expectations that come along with the supposedly sacred union.
Threads are used in the images symbolically to show how traditions, advice, duties and social norms work together to ultimately incapacitate the person underneath them. “Individually, the threads are very delicate, but amassed together their strength becomes visible…” Samizay writes in the project statement.
“I’m not completely against marriage, as some might infer from this piece.” the photographer says. “But, I do think that there are many social pressures associated with marriage. I feel that from childhood we (especially women) are groomed to believe in a certain idealistic fairy tale of marriage that does not reflect the complexities of this arrangement. This story also masks the fact that marriage is primarily a social institution, and secondly a romantic arrangement, although for some people, it’s not even a romantic arrangement.”
Much of the Afghan-American’s work is about the social expectations of women. Upon My Daughter and the earlier series This Will Be the Last feature a “…central character who is immobilized by the burden of social expectations and realizes that she is complicit in her fate.”
Samizay’s latest work is the next chapter of these stories where the character is working towards freedom. In the video work Left, “She ‘cleans house’,” Samizay says, “by casting away relics that have defined her womanhood—broken expectations of love and rigid standards of female purity.”
The images in Upon My Daughter are delicate, beautiful and feminine, taking on the qualities we associate with the brides that the series is about. It is interesting that the work is entirely created by and composed of women as though perhaps they are the most responsible for putting each other in the position. As Samizay puts it, the threads are “…the powerful, yet complicated bonds between the women in this family.”
A photographer and filmmaker, Samizay will be exhibiting both components of Upon My Daughter as part of the Heroes and Villains exhibition at Lawrie Shabibi gallery in Dubai June 12 – July 31, 2011.
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