Jodie Bateman’s work features in the annual UCA Farnham MFA Photography Exhibition currently on display in The Ambassador Room. Bateman’s work explores themes of social issues, being a Muslim woman, and the notion of belonging, whilst moving away from her family and friends to a small village in the heart of Surrey.

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jodie Bateman I am a convert to Islam and a mother to a young boy. I am a British fine art photographer whose work explores women’s identity and social issues. I am currently a student at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham where I am just about to finish my MFA in photography.

What made you want to pursue photography as opposed to more traditional mediums?

I have always loved photography from a young age. I remember going through my mum’s large collection of disposable camera prints from my childhood and I was always fascinated by holding them and looking back in time. I remember getting my very first camera phone at age 14, it was a Sony Ericsson and I would create photoshoots of my sisters and friends then spend time editing them and loved every minute of it.

When I was in school looking for colleges and thinking of careers my teacher and older sister said “do what you love doing so you will be happy in life” but, actually at this point in my life I was really into painting and so I started an art and design course at college. In the second year, you were able to choose what specific field you wanted to go into. It was really hard at that age to decide what your life was going to be, but I knew photography was what made me truly happy. I still get a buzz and genuine happiness with every shoot I do I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I feel so connected with photography and how I am able to express myself through this medium as opposed to others. To me, photography is empowering.

What was the inspiration behind your latest work ‘Muslim Women Should Not Stand Out’?

I was at a stage in my journey of really learning and searching for knowledge around my new identity and thus being instructed how to dress and behave a lot of which was from a male-dominated point of view. At this time, I was also settling into Godalming, feeling isolated and like I stuck out intensely as I was the only person in the village wearing a hijab. I was also researching for another project of mine which explores Muslim women and the negative stigmas and came across a lot of negative words and it was truly hurtful, so I wanted to capture something beautiful in relation to Islam so it was a response to everything at that time in my life I would say.

Frensham 5 © Jodie Bateman

In your artist statement you mention migrating from South London to Godalming in Surrey, how has that been for you?

At first, it was easy and enjoyable, then once I had converted to Islam and started to wear a Hijab it was lonely. My life had changed so drastically, and I made no friends. I was there for almost four years. There was no community there it was uncomfortable walking on the streets sometimes I would get rude remarks or looks whereas in London where I still visit my family, I never feel like that and I have some friends and a revert group of sisters where before covid we would meet weekly. But that being said, I am so grateful to have migrated to Surrey from London it is beautiful and peaceful in comparison to London, and I have recently moved to Farnham in which I have found a small community and a nearby mosque just in Camberley.

Your work explores the question of how to belong, how do you achieve a greater sense of belonging?

I still don’t think I have truly figured it out, but I feel like it's personal so I just try to love myself and be proud of who I am so wherever I go or end up in life I can make myself belong and be happy with whatever I have.

Frensham 4 © Jodie Bateman

Are there any artists you feel inspired by or that have influenced the way you work?

Yes, there are so many artists who inspire me which influences the way I work and how I want to be. To name a few would be Shirin Neshat, Lalla Essaydi, Anna Fox, Karen Knorr, Maryam Wahid, Natasha Caruana, Etinosa Osayimwen, and Richard Billingham.

What’s the next step for you and your work?

I am currently working on other projects in which I am really excited to showcase soon, and I hope to continue having them exhibited so I am able to share my stories and begin to open up new questions between Muslim women and the public and keep using photography to make a change.

See Bateman's work and much more in the UCA Farnham: MFA Photography Show, on display from 22 May – 27 June 2021 in the Ambassador Room.