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Teaching Photography To Saudi Women

This article is more than 11 years old.

How do you teach photography in a country where taking pictures is frowned upon? And how do you teach it to women when they can't go out on their own?

Those were the questions facing Janice Levy, professor of photography at Ithaca College, who recently found herself on a year-long teaching stint at the Princess Nora Bint Abdul - Rahman University for women in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Levy told Here and Now's Robin Young that the difficulties of her job became clear immediately after she arrived.

"The first day that I walked into the classroom, I went to show them how to properly hold the camera, and the minute I held the camera up to my face, they scattered and said, 'no, no, teacher, don't take our picture — it's haraam!" she said, referring to the fact that many in Saudi Arabia consider portraiture forbidden by Islam.

Levy says some of her students were not allowed to go out of their homes beyond school, and many knew very little of their own city and the outside world. Levy says while she and her students came to trust each other, she never felt safe enough in the country to tell anyone that she's Jewish.


  • Janice Levy, professor of photography at Ithaca College

This segment aired on November 15, 2011.


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