Gabriela Maj's 'Almond Garden' opens at Daylight Books July 31

Almond Garden, Portraits from the Women's Prisons in Afghanistan published by Daylight Books, April 2015. All right reserved. ©Gabriela Maj© Gabriella Maj

Polish Canadian photographer Gabriela Maj‘s photographs of incarcerated women in Afghanistan will be on display at Daylight Books Project Space in Hillsborough. The exhibit is called “Almond Garden,” the English translation of Badam Bagh, the most notorious women’s prison located on the outskirts of Kabul. A book by the same name is available for purchase through Daylight Books.

The public is invited to a reception on July 31 to celebrate the exhibit and book.

What to expect: From 2010-2014, Maj traveled through Afghanistan documenting female prisoners incarcerated for “moral crimes,” offenses typically including sex between two unmarried people. The crimes include running away from forced marriages, being sold into prostitution, domestic slavery, physical violence (often by their husbands), rape and involuntary pregnancy. Each image features a female prisoner photographed alone or with her children, who are often incarcerated with their mothers.

As an independent female photographer, Maj was able to obtain privileged access to the prisoners. She says, “I was frequently left alone in the prisons once our guard escort tired of monitoring me. … My sense was that unaccompanied by any security, a woman, albeit a foreign one, was not considered a threat … being overlooked in this way became a strategy that ultimately exposed the context within which I was working, one where women’s narratives were considered irrelevant to the power dynamics that ran the country.”

Why you should go: Maj’s project is the largest record documenting the experiences of incarcerated women in Afghanistan produced to date. The photographs and accompanying stories call attention to the human rights abuses suffered by Afghan women on a daily basis.  Maj writes, “Women [in Afghanistan] who run away from home to escape abuse are tracked down like criminals by the police and often end up incarcerated while their assailants go unpunished. … The passionate battle waged by many conservative groups to keep women out of the classroom and the workplace ensures that women remain dependent and that an individual who is rejected by her family – a fate that befalls almost all incarcerated women – is completely vulnerable …”

About the artist: Gabriela Maj grew up in Poland, Germany and Canada. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, National Geographic Traveler, Der Speigel, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, the International Herald Tribune, the Financial Times, The Daily Beast, the Seattle Times and Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, among other publications. She has worked as a photographer for Frontline, Bloomberg News as well as Getty Images. Maj has covered stories in Iran, Qatar, Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, India and Afghanistan.

She photographed two long form promotional publications in 2014 for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism in the United Arab Emirates. Exhibitions of her photography have been held at the Thomas Werner Gallery in New York; the Toronto City Hall in Canada; Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy; and at the 7th Annual Tashkent Photography Biennale in Uzbekistan in 2014. Her large-scale photo installations for showrooms and window displays have been commissioned by DKNY and Calvin Klein in New York. Maj obtained a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in Photography from Parsons School of Design at the New School University in New York, and later went on to complete an Interdisciplinary Master’s degree in Anthropology at Columbia University.

About Daylight Books: Daylight is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography books. By exploring the documentary mode along with the more conceptual concerns of fine art, Daylight’s uniquely collectible publications work to revitalize the relationship between art, photography, and the world-at-large.

“Almond Garden”
July 31-August 24

Daylight Books Project Space
121 W. Margaret Ln., Hillsborough

Reception: Friday, July 31 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Click here for the Facebook event.

Click here for more information or to purchase the book.

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