Taking Liberty

Taking Liberty is a series of black and white photographic self-portraits inspired by a post 9/11 period of self-reflection. It is not a statement about the politics of the war or religion but an open-ended question addressing the issues of personal freedom and identity.

The burka is the most conservative form of veil worn by Muslim women. When worn by choice it is a symbol of religious devotion and personal honor. The burka, as a garment, limits it’s wearer’s ability to walk and move freely as well as her ability to see; the cloth mesh obscures focus and eliminates peripheral vision. The burka renders the wearer completely anonymous; it covers not only the body but the face thus concealing individual identity, facial expression and emotion. I have been photographing myself for the past 22 years, mostly in the nude, and have to ask myself whether my method of self-expression a choice or a compulsion. Am I revealing myself or hiding behind and image of myself as an object? Who am I beneath my veil of personal freedom?

The American flag is a symbol of independence and freedom for Americans. Post 9/11 the American flag has become a symbol of patriotism in support of the United States’ involvement in “the war against terrorism”. I chose to wrap myself in the American flag because I felt uncomfortably unpatriotic and un-independent. The veil of freedom is an illusion because as individual citizens or as a nation we are all dependent on each other. What is true liberty but a tolerance for differences amongst people, a recognition of our similarities and a sense of compassion for “the enemy”, especially when the enemy is a part of ourselves?



PATTI LEVEY





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