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Jenny Matthews: Sewing Conflict – Photography, War and Embroidery

By 11th April 2024April 21st, 2024No Comments

Jenny Matthews: Sewing Conflict – Photography, War and Embroidery

Sewing Conflict: Photography, War and Embroidery, a new solo exhibition by documentary photographer and filmmaker Jenny Matthews, is now open at Street Level Photoworks.

Jenny Matthews is an acclaimed documentary photographer, filmmaker and artist. Her work deals with issues of dispossession and human rights, with a particular emphasis on the lives of women and girls. She has worked all over the world for NGOs and on editorial assignments, covering momentous historical events including the guerrilla war and Independence of Eritrea, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the genocide in Rwanda.

Since 2020, Jenny has been making a series of photo quilts comprising edited photos from her archive; twenty-three of these hangings are included in the exhibition at Street Level Photoworks. Each photograph has been printed onto cotton linen, stitched together, and embellished with embroidery on material most often sourced from the countries in which the original images were made.

Alongside these works, the exhibition also features the series Facial De-recognition (2021), which is composed of thirty-five portraits of Afghan women with embroidery completely obscuring their features. This series explores how the Taliban retaking control of Afghanistan in August 2021 had negative consequences for Afghan women and girls, who subsequently suffered the loss of their freedom, rights, and identity. 

Regarding her Facial De-recognition series, Jenny commented:

“I was shocked when the Taliban took over control of Afghanistan in August 2021 and these images are about Afghan women losing their identity. As a documentary photographer it has always been important for me to know who I’m photographing, to talk to people, know their names, show their faces. I have often tried to show what is hidden and reveal unseen lives but as the Taliban took over I felt compelled to make a statement about women I had photographed over the past 35 years, and the appropriate way to do this seemed to be by hiding their identities. 

“Once again women are being forced to disappear from view. As girls are denied education (up until now only primary school girls have been allowed back) and women lose their jobs in most sectors, I have printed photos from my archive onto linen/cotton, painted out the background in the original photos with block colours of acrylic paint and then added embroidery to both honour and disguise, and differentiate between past and present.” 

Sewing Conflict: Photography, War and Embroidery also contains work from the series Torn Apart, which focuses on the current crisis in Sudan, and a new sequence of images from Gaza.

Sewing Conflict: Photography, War and Embroidery is on view at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, until 12th May 2024.

Images and press release courtesy Street Level Photoworks.