02 March 2006

on captions and girls

from salon:

And here's the caption:
Palestinian girls wearing Hamas scarves and headbands during a campaign for Student Council elections at the Arab American University in the West Bank town of Jenin on Feb. 27, 2006.

wow does the caption completely and utterly undersell this fabulous image. The doll in the foreground with her bib blowing over her face in some sort of accidental echoing of veiling; the man standing in the background with the microphone and the baseball cap, reminiscent of many camp counselor types. maybe it's the scarf he wears that's so similar to Baden Powell's own nationalist uniform for the boy scouts. it's one of those photos from which I wish I could pull back to see the bank of photographers shooting these girls to force them to represent the bigger worries of the west regarding the recent election in Palestine.

and all of this is to overlook the iconography of fear linked to the specter of the veiled woman toting/hiding a gun, familiar from the Iranian context and re-interrogated by Shirin Neshat's early work.

this photo is about so many different relations of power, from the white, blonde doll to the man-over-girls to the objectification of the veiled middle eastern woman to the reassertion of her power through arms and militancy to a whole history of girls' and boys' organizations and the inculcation of (nationalist, religious, gender) values.

what a great picture. the caption, I will say, makes it better, in that one does a double take on the photo. perhaps it will make people look closer.


dan said...

"the caption, I will say, makes it better, in that one does a double take on the photo." -- Totally! My immediate thought was "Student Council Elections? Isn't that a large automatic weapon she's holding in the hand that's NOT holding the doll?" It does cause contemplation. I also like the direct eye contact between the girl in the back row and the viewer, making you very aware of the way you are "looking at" the image and the people in it. Her expression contrasts with the girl standing authoritatively in front of her.

Also, is the doll wearing a bindi? How would one interpret that in this context? Do we assume that the gun is also a toy/prop? (Maybe that's a totally naive question).

Love it! Good find!

Moksha said...

Really a jarring photo. The look on the primary girl's face seems to capture perfectly this ambiguous shift between girlhood and warrior and their confusing overlap. What role is she supposed to play, and for whom?

Your comments are so thought-provoking too. Thanks for sharing.