Through Her Eyes by Sanaa Hamid
The original images which Sanaa based hers on can be seen here, here, here & here.
Sanaa Hamid’s series of work entitled “Through Her Eyes” shows her attempts to conform to culturally inherited expectations and ideologies that are sometimes imposed on her. It is portrayed through a series of performative self portraits, using the aesthetic style of Bollywood films and Pakistani actresses that her Mother admired at the same age as her. It is a collaboration between herself and her mother, as the latter is given the responsibility to press the shutter, immortalising her as an image of a particular character; literally “Through Her Eyes”. It is an exploration of self, while also questioning how possible it is to know those closest to us, and the absence of our true self even with your own mother, who should be the person closest to you.
Simone spoke to Sanaa about her images, culture and her feminism.
What inspired the project?
My mother used to adore certain actresses when she was my age, and i’ve often felt kind of repulsed by Bollywood and Pakistani television dramas and their melodrama, but I started watching a lot of classic Bollywood films, trying to place myself in the same frame of mind, and I completely got it. It was amazing having actresses I could look up to, as a Pakistani woman, and actually be able to relate to them physically. A somebody of a race that is rarely portrayed in the media and beauty industry in a positive way, it was a welcome change from the completely unattainable ideals of beauty i’m used to seeing.
Which of the images is your favorite and why?
My favourite image is probably “Rekha”, as I’d literally watched the reference film “Umrao Jaan” a week before and the process of shooting was particularly difficult. It was the first of the series I shot, introducing my mother as the stylist and essentially the photographer. I genuinely started crying while trying to shoot it! It was so emotionally testing allowing her to scrutinise me while fighting my own ego and lack of patience. The process of shooting it felt like a necessary one though, as if we were having some kind of silent dialogue and become closer by the end of it. A lot about this work is about trying desperately to be exactly everybody close to me wants me to be and the cultural chaos it results in.
Have you ever had moments where it’s seemingly impossible to reconcile the culture of your family with the world you live in ?
Sometimes it does feel completely hopeless, trying to combine my own culture with the western culture, but that’s kind of the beauty of it. It’s happening now to a lot of young people, so I don’t feel alone, even if I do feel lost a lot of the time. Obviously, the Pakistani, and generally most South-Asian cultures are male dominated, but I am more than happy to defy that, and my immediate family is well aware of it! I’ve always been the recipient of a few raised eyebrows for my ideologies and independence, but I’ll take them! As a feminist, there’s a lot I reject from my culture, particularly about my role as a woman and what is expected of me. Even the decision to do Photography, take self portraits, have an internet presence; they’re all issues I have to overcome.
Go check out Sanaa’s website here!
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