Photography Features: Behind the Empowered Women

Torath Production

Shannon Farhoud, based in Doha, Qatar is the creator of “Behind the Empowered Woman”, a photography gallery that looks at what goes into being an empowered woman in the Arab World. The gallery will look at women between the ages of 18-100, their accomplishments and what has led them to where they are. The gallery was created in 2013 in partnership with Ashoka Changemakers.

Shannon Farhoud created the gallery to address bias in the media. She found that the media tends to focus only on the brilliant women who overachieve in the region, ignoring the many women who are still achievers and who go through extreme hardship to be mothers, sisters, daughter and working women. Shannon Farhoud wanted to bring attention to these women as well as provide support for them in the future.

“Behind the Empowered Woman” will be an exhibition that will the tell stories of these women, with the number of images in the gallery growing each year. It will display images of women around the Middle East and North Africa in situations of power and weakness. Money raised from the gallery will provide funds to help micro-finance women in the region. Shannon Farhoud also plans to build a team that will film short documentaries about the women that use these funds.

For more information on the gallery, visit:

All images credited to Torath Production.


Torath Production

Lalla Essaydi

Lalla A. Essaydi grew up in Morocco and now lives between Morocco and the USA where she received her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/TUFTS University in May 2003. Essaydi’s work is represented by Schneider Gallery in Chicago, by Howard Yezerski Gallery, in Boston, by Edwynn Hook Gallery, in New York City, and by Waterhouse & Dodd Gallery, London. Her work has been exhibited round the world: in many major U.S., European cities, and in countries in the Middle East and north Africa, including Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Texas, Buffalo, Colorado, New York, Syria, Ireland, England, France, the Netherlands, Dubai, Abu Dabi, and in Morocco. Essaydi’s work is represented in a number of collections, including The Louvre Museum, Paris, France, The British National Museum, London, The Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge MA, The Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA, The RISD Museum of Art, Rhode Island, School of Design, Providence, RI, the Williams College Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Fries Museum, the Netherlands, The George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, NY to list a few. Her art, which often combines Islamic calligraphy with representations of the female body, addresses the complex reality of Arab female identity from the unique perspective of personal experience. In much of her work, she returns to her Moroccan girlhood, looking back on it as an adult woman caught somewhere between past and present, and as an artist, exploring the language in which to “speak” from this uncertain space. Her work often appropriate Orientalist imagery from the Western painting tradition, thereby inviting viewers to reconsider the Orientalist mythology. She has worked in numerous media, including painting, video, film, installation, and analog photography. “In my art, I wish to present myself through multiple lenses — as artist, as Moroccan, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite viewers to resist stereotypes.”


Courtesy of Lalla Essaydi and Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY
Converging Territories #24, 2004.

Courtesy of Lalla Essaydi and Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY
Converging Territories #10, 2004.

Courtesy of Lalla Essaydi and Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY
Grande Odalisque. 2009.

Courtesy of Lalla Essaydi and Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY
Harem #1, 2010.

Rania Matar

Rania Matar was born and raised in Lebanon and moved to the U.S. in 1984. Originally trained as an architect at the American University of Beirut and at Cornell University, she studied photography at the New England School of Photography and the Maine Photographic Workshops. Matar started teaching photography in 2009 and offered summer photography workshops to teenage girls in Lebanon’s refugee camps with the assistance of non-governmental organizations. She now teaches photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and regularly offers talks, class visits and lectures at museums, galleries, schools and colleges in the US and abroad. This coming fall she will be teaching a Personal Documentary Class at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, a Portraiture workshop at the Photographic Resource Center and will participate in a lecture and a panel at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston on September 29, coinciding with She Would Tells a Story exhibition.

Matar’s work focuses mainly on girls and women. Earlier projects recorded the lives of women and children in the Middle East, and over the past three years she has completed A Girl and Her Room and started a new project L’Enfant-Femme. Her work has won several awards, has been featured in numerous publications, and exhibited widely in the U.S. and internationally. Her images are in the permanent collections of several museums worldwide.

Her first book titled Ordinary Lives was released October 2009, published by the Quantuck Lane Press and distributed by W.W. Norton. Rania’s latest monograph, A Girl and Her Room, published by Umbrage Editions was released in May 2012.


Courtesy of Rania Matar and and Carroll and Sons Gallery, Boston
Coffee on the Terrace, Convent of Saydat Al Nouriyeh, Chekka Lebanon 2008.

Courtesy of Lalla Essaydi and Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY
Hanging Laundry, Aita El Chaab Lebanon 2006.

Courtesy of Lalla Essaydi and Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY
Shopping for Sunglasses, Beirut 2005.

Courtesy of Lalla Essaydi and Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY
Girlfriends, Beirut 2007.

Courtesy of Lalla Essaydi and Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY
Nun with the Blowing Veil, Convent of Saydat Al Nouriyeh, Chekka Lebanon 2008.