Any color, as long as it’s blue

December 7, 2012

Wiesbaden, Germany

By Ralph Orlowski

It was a cold and blustery winter morning when I arrived at the warm and cozy gallery rooms of the Hesse Nassau Art Club in Wiesbaden to take pictures of the exhibition “Bourquoi”. This was to be my third attempt to take photographs of viewers at the show. So far I had not been successful at finding any willing visitors. I wondered whether this could be because of the compulsory dress code. The title of the exhibition “Bourquoi” by Turkish-German artist Naneci Yurdaguel is a play on the two words ‘pourqui’ — the French word for ‘why’ – and “Burka”.

I took off my big awkward padded winter coat only to be handed an equally, if not more, awkward “Burka” by the gallery assistant. I was told the only way to photograph or view the exhibition was while wearing it. No exceptions – not for male visitors or even for journalists.

Finally two visitors arrived – a man and a woman who were also willing to pull over an original Kabul burka. The organizers of the exhibition had flown in about a dozen original blue Burkas from the Afghan capital. I expected the visitors to be giggling and laughing when they changed to fulfill the dress code. But everyone was surprisingly extremely quiet and respectful.

My initial thought was to photograph the visitors all the time through the eye-grid of the burka. This turned out to be more difficult than expected. I simply did not have enough space to fit the camera underneath. I could not look through the viewfinder. I must have looked pretty clumsy trying to focus my camera. Thank goodness for the camera’s auto-focus.

Despite not being as heavy as I expected, the 100% polyester garment proved to be quite claustrophobic. I found breathing pretty difficult and I could not see where I was stepping. One has to look down all the time not to fall over one’s own feet.

After struggling for 15 minutes, I decided I had enough shots from this perspective and risked breaking the dress code to be able to shoot normally. Fortunately the very nice and competent gallery assistant was so busy helping the other two visitors and explaining the works of art to them, that she did not see my breach of the rules. I managed to get a few nice shots before grabbing my cumbersome coat again and making for the door.


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Very good work, considering the significant physical constraints the burka cost you. One is tempted to comment on the straits of AF women who wear that thing all the time; but we are photographers not sociologists. Very nice work. Thank you.

Posted by johnrudoff | Report as abusive

Thank you Mr.Orlowski for this interesting insight, you portrayed it well for us on all levels. Great job!

Posted by NMN | Report as abusive

Really interesting information. Incredible photography work…

Thank you,


Posted by jdiaz | Report as abusive