Wesaam Al-Badry was born in 1984 in Nasiriyah, Iraq. When Al-Badry was seven years old, at the outset of what became known as the Gulf War, Al-Badry’s mother fled on foot with her five children, including his three-day-old sister, as artillery shells fell around them. After hiking all night, sometimes through knee-deep mud, they arrived at a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia.
In 1994, Al-Badry and his family were relocated to Lincoln, Nebraska after spending four-and-a-half years in a refugee camp. As a young man growing up in middle America, Al-Badry fiercely felt the disconnect between his experiences in Iraq and the refugee camps and his new American reality.
Bearing witness to the aftermath of the Iraq-Iran war that shaped the contemporary human condition into one of paranoia and distrust and his first-hand experiences living through Desert Storm and in refugee camps has sculpted Al-Badry’s work, which focuses on capturing the dispossessed, the alienated and ultimately, human dignity.
His series, Al Kouture, reveals the tension between Occidental and Arab-Islamic ideologies. By tailoring and repurposing couture silk scarves into niqabs, Al-Badry investigates female objectification at the intersections of both male and market desires. In exploring the possibilities of assimilation in a vast and polarized world, Al-Badry asks his audience, “Would the Western World accept the niqab if it were on the racks of luxury fashion designers?”
While his work focuses on photo reportage and documentary, Al-Badry also creates multimedia art that challenges and investigates social norms.
Al-Badry was featured in the exhibition Contemporary Muslim Fashions at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, now showing in Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst. In December 2018, he was awarded the Dorothea Lange Fellowship to further pursue his photographic projects. His works were recently acquired by Stanford University’s Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts and the Toledo Art Museum. Al-Badry participated in Hank Willis Thomas’ For Freedoms Project.
His photographs have been featured in the New York Times, Artspace, NPR, The Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and 48 Hills. Al-Badry has also worked for global media outlets, including CNN and Al-Jazeera America. He received his BFA in Photography at the San Francisco Art Institute and is currently pursuing a Masters in Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.