During our very exciting showcase of the Terry O’Neill Award finalists here at The Strand Gallery, we want to take the time to really delve into the work of the exhibited photographers to give you wonderful viewers a deeper insight into the people behind the lens. Today we will be looking at the works of Laura Boushnak, whose series ‘I Read I Write: Yemen – Access to Education’ won her the award.
Laura Boushnak is a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian photographer, whose work ranges from conflict photography to pictorial storytelling. After completing a BA in sociology at the Lebanese University, Boushnak began her photography career covering news for the Associated Press in Lebanon. Since 2008, Boushnak has been working as a freelance photographer, with a special focus on Arab women and education. Her work ‘I Read, I Write: Egypt – Illiteracy’ was acquired by The British Museum in 2012. The winning series, ‘I Read I Write: Yemen – Access to Education’, explores this world of women and education. Read on to find out more.
A Yemeni proverb says “A girl leaves the house only twice, to her husband and her grave”, but for the Yemeni women in the following series of portraits, the only way to go against this belief is through higher education, despite the staggering odds they’re faced with. With the help of Yero NGO, I photographed women, who were the first members in their families to peruse higher education. They spoke about their achievements and challenges, in an ultra-conservative society, where many believe that women are destined for marriage to protect their chastity and their role is solely in the home.
Boushnak states that “my on-going project titled “I Read I Write” explores the role of literacy in the enrichment of Arab women’s lives. With the ongoing waves of protests and social upheaval in the Arab World, how can the “Arab Spring” bring about change in the region when a full half of its human potential is often neglected? According to the UNDP’s Arab Human Development Report, Arab countries collectively have one of the highest rates of female illiteracy in the world. In each country I covered, I tackled a specific issue surrounding women’s education, while maintaining that these problems are common throughout the Arab world.”
All images © Laura Boushnak
Further examples of Boushnak’s work can be seen here.
If you would like to see the winning pieces in the flesh, then make sure you get down to The Strand Gallery by the 26th January.