I Am – Paradox Identity
“Europe is changing and these women are at the forefront, increasingly taking on a new identity. They are also Europe’s new faces. How does Europe conceive its identity in terms of definition, but also in terms of imagery? This is a timely and continuous process becoming all the more conscious to a larger public with each day passing.
The fact that – speaking of Muslim women and their presumptuous identity, a strong stigma arises enhanced through a diversity of journalistic media outlets, television and social media (today) whence – seen from a political point of view, wearing the ‘hijab’ or a veil has become an issue of public debate in many European societies, even in Turkey at the time.
Instead of focusing merely on one’s representation of culture and religion regarding the way a woman dresses, either behaves, nonetheless the real discussion should be about one’s identity and to what extent identity is shaped within one’s proper perception. Since I started to work seriously on the topic of migration, identity and exile from 1999 onwards, I’m keen to explore how Europe is dealing with its Muslim community.
As I began following young Muslim women – and men too, in Paris’ banlieues – back in 2003 and well before the riots in 2005 started in Clichy-sous-Bois, photographing, interviewing and filming on many recurring visits, it had made me understand more clearly that Western society somehow seems to have forgotten that it should – especially these days, redefine its own identity and take a closer look at the true nature of problems arising from social isolation, negligence and non-tolerance. Social change could be used to create an open society, not afraid of these changes, rather adapting to them: We all belong to our future.” – 2008/2018, Ilse Frech.
The project I Am – Paradox Identity entails photography and filming, interviews, personal selfie-collections and audioreportage, created in collaboration with the women in the following cities: Asnières-sur-Seine, Argenteuil, Bobigny, Bondy, Aulney-sous-Bois, Clichy-sous-Bois, La Courneuve, Evry, Grigny, Garges-les-Gonèsse, Gennevilliers, Melun, Mantes-la-Jolie, Les Mureaux, Meaux, Montfermeil, Montreuil, Sarcelles, Stains, Saint-Denis, Pierrefitte, Nanterre, Vitry-sur-Seine, Les Ulis. Photography & Concept © by Ilse Frech, 2003, 2005-2008.
I Am. My Islam. My France A colorful mosaic of five young Muslim women offering a glance through the façade of concrete, intimately set against the backdrop of Paris’ banlieues, situated in the projects of Clichy-sous-Bois, Grigny, Garges-les-Gonèsse, Mantes-la-Jolie, Meaux. The women, conscious of their participatory role, create their own myth and cliché; a timely document relating to the present, observing the personal behind the political.