Razan Alzayani was sent 3 questions to answer prior to the exhibition, Enduring Power: The Middle Eastern and Iranian Woman’s Story, which opens on Oct 15th at the Buehler Alumni Center at UC Davis . Her answers are as eloquent, thoughtful and detailed as her visual work. With a degree from Boston University, an impressive resume and several awards over the last two years, she is a very strong contributor to this exhibition.
Razan has been working in the Gulf region as a visual storyteller for over five years, continually enjoying the interplay of working with still and video mediums. She currently works as a video journalist for a major news-wire based in Dubai. Prior to that, Razan worked as a multimedia producer and later as a staff photojournalist for The National Newspaper based in Abu Dhabi. She has a passion for issues that involve women and communities that are often misrepresented or that are hard to access.
Q: What aspect of photos are you most connected to?
Razan: I am most connected to the photographs that show the quiet moments in between, those that relay the brief instances where the subjects are completely relaxed and have either forgotten or chosen to disregard my presence. The memories of those moments and the interaction with the subjects that let me into their lives still strongly resonate with me. I often find myself feeling very attached to those images.
Q:“Enduring Power” is an exhibition bringing the Iranian and Middle Eastern woman’s story to life. What part of that story do you think is the most important to tell? What part is the most unexpected? What part do you relate to the most as a woman?
Razan: Sometimes the most important stories to tell are those that are not in the mainstream media. People often think that as a rule women in the Middle East are oppressed, mistreated and under-represented. To some degree that can be true depending on which specific country is referred to. But it is inaccurate to make statements about an entire gender across a huge region that embodies so many variances in ethnic diversity, law, religion, cultural traditions and values.
In fact, there are more similarities than differences between women in the west and their Middle Eastern counterparts. The path to achieving certain goals can be vastly different, but their dreams, aspirations and achievements are often comparable for the most part. They face difficulties that women in the west have already managed to overcome; and as an Arab woman from the Gulf working alone in what is perceived as a “western” profession, I get heavily-loaded assumptions and questions from people, therefore I can relate to many of these women that are working hard to break out of traditional moulds.
Q: Senses Cultural’s mission statement is: creating a more peaceful and healthy environment for all by fostering understanding through sharing arts and ideas across the globe. What are a few things you hope to achieve from being part of this exhibition?
Razan: I’m hoping that the images will give people attending the exhibition an opportunity to gain a deeper insight into everyday life in the Middle East. This exhibition is an opportunity to break the paradigms that are constantly perpetuated for the sake of viewer ratings and clicks. Despite the fact that women are seen as living polar opposite lives compared to the western standard of “normal”, they find their own happiness and fulfillment within the realms of their own culture and society just like women anywhere else in the world.
For more information and a glimpse of her work, please visit http://razanalzayani.com