Photographer and writer Wesaam Al-Badry (b. 1984, Nasiriyah, Iraq) examines Western consumerism’s influence on traditional Muslim Culture. When Al-Badry was seven years old, at the outset of what became known as the Gulf War, his mother fled on foot with her five children, including his three-day-old sister. They arrived at a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia, where they stayed for four years. In 1994, Al-Badry and his family were relocated to Lincoln, Nebraska. 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. 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?”
Al-Badry was recently featured in the exhibition Contemporary Muslim Fashions at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, before travelling to Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst. His works were acquired by Stanford University’s Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts and the Toledo Art Museum. Al-Badry will participate in Hank Willis Thomas’ For Freedoms Project. His photographs have been featured in Forbes Magazine, The Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and in campaigns for the UNHCR, the ACLU, and other global organizations. 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.