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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lana Slezic

Award-winning Canadian photographer Lana Slezic (right) spoke at the Hôtel Château Laurier last evening on the subject of her most recent book of photographs, Forsaken. More than just a pictorial reportage of the plight Afghan women, these photos are well-studied, intimate portraits. They are not merely snapshots of a given moment in time. The photos appear to be very carefully, diligently composed portraits. They are powerful as they are colourful. I would have expected muted bleak portraits as a result of the subject matter. Something probably in black and white, but was pleased that they are vibrant in colour giving some hope that all is not dark in the subject matter.

Being a very articulate speaker, I was surprised to note that she did not know what a white burka on a woman represented when an audience member queried her during her presentation of the group photo of women shopping where the rest of the women were in blue burkas. Khorshied Samad (pictured above), the wife of the Afghanistan Ambassador Omar Samad, had piped up from the audience responding that a white burka signified she was a virgin. Given that Lana Slezic had been there photographing the women of Afghanistan for two years, I thought that she would be expected to know this fact. (Of course, I didn't know the significance either. But that's me nitpicking.) She admitted to learning something new as we all probably did.

Her most iconic photo, I felt, is the Kandahar policewoman, Malalai, posed in profile with her a revolver raised from under her blue burka. This one particularly unsettled me. It appears to me to be an over-the-top pose that differs from the rest in her collection. It makes me wonder what or who she was pointing the gun at. That is to say, is this just a portrait for the sake of saying, "I am a police officer, and a woman in a burka. Here is my gun."? Like most photos, it is frequently the back-story that is as compelling as the photo itself. I was pleased that Malalai was also photographed without the burka to reveal her true self.

Check out her slick website ( and you will see Slezic's obvious talent shine as a photographer. I believe you will find that her photos are very reminiscent of the styling of Henri Cartier-Bresson. She has many beautiful and poignant photos on her site of her various studies such as the Mennonites, Dubrovnik, Jerusalem, and the Canada-US border.


Blogger Pearl said...

oh, now I wish I went. :(
But I'm glad you reported it. :)
I didn't know about tbe burka color signif. either.

Friday, September 28, 2007 10:55:00 AM  

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