In recent years, pious Muslim women seeking to remain within the bounds of their idea of modesty while enjoying themselves on beaches in a number of countries had begun wearing "burkini" swimsuits: combinations of loose-fitting, long-sleeved, almost-knee-length tops over loose pants. These garments -- color coordinated with headscarves or, in some instances, veils -- attracted unsought attention on the beaches of France. During the summer of 2016, officials in thirty-one communies in France used the police to enforce local ordinances barring bar women from wearing burkinis and veils from swimming or lying on public beaches.Beyond the question of identity, these ordinances violated fundamental rights: deny access to a public space to a particular category of people, as if France had an apartheid system.
This was the reality that gave birth to my project French Women. Producing these intentionally large portraits of Muslim women wearing their brightly colored veils and other garments that fit their cultural norms of decency and modesty, required these women, who prefer to remain invisible to the broader society, to become salient; to stand out in an act of civil disobedience. These are images that needed to be done. These are French women. Ordinary women. Women who deserve dignity and acceptance. Not disdain and exclusion.