Patti Levey's Taking Liberty
War and Peace, 2002, copyright Patti Levey
"Taking Liberty was inspired by a post 9/11 period of self-reflection. It is not a statement about war or religion but an open-ended question addressing issues of personal freedom and identity.
The burqa is the most conservative form of veil worn by Muslim women. When worn by choice it is a symbol of religious devotion and personal honor. The burqa, as a garment, limits the wearer's ability to walk and move freely as well as her ability to see; the cloth mesh obscures focus and eliminates peripheral vision. The burqa renders the wearer completely anonyomous. It covers not only the body, but the face, thus concealing individual identity, facial expression and emotion. I have been photographing myself, mostly in the nude, for more than twenty years. I have to ask myself whether my method of self-expression is a choice or a compulsion. Am I revealing myself or hiding behind an image of myself as an object? Who am I beneath the veil of personal freedom?
The American flag is a symbol of independence and freedom for Americans. Post 9/11, the American flag has become a symbol of patriotism in support of the "War Against Terrorism". I chose to wrap myself in the flag because I feel uncomfortably unpatriotic and un-independent. The veil of freedom is an illusion because as individual citizens or as a nation we are all dependent on each other. What is true liberty but a tolerance for differences amongst people, a recognition of our similarities and a sense of compassion for "the enemy", especially when the enemy is ourselves?
The United States government refers to civilian casualties in Iraq as "Collateral Damage". Statistics show that 50% of the population of Iraq is under the age of eighteen and that 25% of all children in Iraq are malnourished. The photographs in "Collateral Damage" depict who the real victims of war are: women and children." - Patti Levey