This photo is part of a series of portraits of Muslim women from JoyRiders and Cycle Sisters, two female-centred cycle group based in Walthamstow, East London. Both groups were born out of London hyper-diverse community experiences, but each one has a slightly different focus. While Cycle Sisters main goal is to provide a safe and culturally appropriate space for Muslim women to develop their cycling skills, JoyRiders aim to promote connections between different London communities.
Their main activity consists of weekly social bike rides, which are heavily focused on wellbeing through social interactions and exercise, but they also take pride that many of the women who participate in their bike rides progress to cycling independently. On these photos, I wanted to capture the individual sense of achievement and freedom Muslim female cyclists derive from cycling.
By photographing women who wear the hijab, niqab or jilbāb cycling freely in beautiful outdoor natural settings, I wanted to start a broader conversation where symbols perceived as opposites - Muslim outfits as a symbol of oppression and nature and bicycles as symbols of freedom - could be juxtaposed and hopefully have their meaning shifted, if only slightly. I also wanted to visually display the idea of freedom as an aspect of every human experience. As such, it is ultimately transient - often elusive even for those who are lucky enough to experience more moments of it - and yet so beautiful we all should have the opportunity to fight for. That we could have a twisted perception of freedom and oppression is what propelled me to take photos of Muslim female cyclists.