It's No Life For Any Woman

Shaista Chishty

In 2004, like icons Renoir, Matisse & countless others before me, I staged a photograph of a woman wearing a black face-veil, concealing the face of my sister who I asked to model for an ‘exotic shoot’. Neither of us at the time had ever worn a face veil before and nor had we met anyone else who had. We certainly knew the images did not represent the Muslim women we knew.

Recently coming across these images in my archive I decided to begin exploring how and why I created such images. The images embody everything I find problematic about the way we perceive Muslim women in the Western imagination.

Still a work in progress, this project has involved extensive research into archives to explore historical representations of Muslim women. The series brings together, in collage form, news archives and cyanotypes made using the images from my archive. Together they represent the problematic ‘blueprint' of the Muslim woman that we have become accustomed to seeing .

Artist biography

I am a Photographer & Visual Artist using my practice to explore my own identity as a working class British Muslim woman of Pakistani Origin.

I am interested in how the various evolving strands of my identity are represented in mainstream media and popular culture, particularly how those representations have been alienating yet still internalised.

I began my career working on humanitarian projects with NGOs such as Christian Aid, CARE International and UN Women. Since completing an MA in Documentary Photography at University of the Arts London, I have transitioned towards a research driven visual arts practice.