Jenny Matthews

Losing Freedom - A tribute to Afghan Women
14 April - 6 May 2023
Gees Gallery by The Oxford Collection 

Jenny has been documenting social issues in Britain and abroad since 1982. Her archive portraits of Afghan Women are printed on linen with added embroidery to hide their faces in recognition of their recent loss of freedom. Exhibited with community embroidered images.

I was shocked when the Taliban took over control of Afghanistan in August 2021, and these images are about Afghan women losing their identities.

As girls are denied education and women lose their jobs in most sectors, I have printed photos from my archive onto linen/cotton, painted out the background in the original photos with block colours of acrylic paint and then added embroidery to both honour and disguise, and differentiate between past and present.

Sewing is perceived as a harmless female activity but there have always been subversive stitchers and needlework has been a tool of feminist protest

The meditative process of sewing is an opportunity to assess the history I have lived through, and deal with the frustration and sorrow of knowing that for many Afghan women the freedoms they had gained have been curtailed and their lives are on hold at the moment. Each image is dedicated to a specific group of women who have seen their dreams crumble and their opportunities dashed.

Jenny Matthews is a documentary photographer and film maker. Since 1982 she has been documenting social issues in Britain and abroad. She has done a major project on Women and War which resulted in a book and touring exhibition in 2003, and she has continued to document the lives of women in places affected by conflict.

Matthews has worked for leading international development organisations (including ActionAid, Care International, Christian Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children) and her work has been published in major magazines and newspapers worldwide. She has also facilitated photography projects with young people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Eastern Europe, and with migrant women in Indonesia.

During Covid 19 Matthews started making photo quilts; selecting images from her archive, printing them on linen, adding embroidery to some and sewing them together. Each represents a country during conflict (eg Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq) or a social issue (Refugees, Protest). Three were selected for Format 21.

Matthews was one of the founding members of Format Women’s Photo Agency in 1983, and then a member of Network Photographers. She is currently part of Panos Photographers.

Getting there

14 April - 6 May 2023

Daily, 9.00 - 12.00 & 16.00 - 18.00

Daily 9.00 - 12.00, for other times please call Gees 01865 553540

Gees Gallery by The Oxford Collection, 61-63 Banbury Rd, OX2 6PE

Entrance through Gees Restaurant and Bar

Jenny Matthews Website