Poppies: Women, War, Peace

Artist Lee Karen Stow tells the story of women affected by conflict through photography.

On display at the Center for Civil and Human Rights from September 23 until January 7, 2018

Poppies: Women, War, Peace the often forgotten women in times of war, from the First World War to conflicts today. This exhibit showcases portraits of women whose lives have been affected by war and are interspersed with a botanical series of the poppy flower.

The poppy grows and survives where everything else has been destroyed. It grows tall when its seed, dormant for years, is exposed to light due to upheaval. It refuses to disappear, no matter how many times it is uprooted. Therefore, the poppy is a metaphor used to remember the strength and resilience of women caught up in conflict or who work for an end to war who are often forgotten and lost behind headlines.

About Lee Karen Stow

Lee Karen Stow is a Photographer known for using color and light to achieve painterly images and telling portraits. Based in England, she established a photojournalism practice centered on long-term documentary photography projects such as 42Girls in the Ring, and Poppies: Women, War, Peace. The latter work, Poppies: Women, War, Peace features portraits of women affected by war. Lee uses the Poppy flower as a lens for honoring women (much as Georgia’s own Moïna Belle Michael conceived of the “Flanders Field” poppy flower as a symbol of remembrance nearly 100 years ago).

This collection on view at the Center for Civil and Human Rights began to coalesce in 2007. That year, Lee Karen Stow began documenting the personal narratives of women in Sierra Leone who were rebuilding their lives following a decade of civil war. Since then, she has devoted her photographic practice to recording the stories of women impacted by war and conflict.

Her insights into women and war led Lee to Auschwitz in Poland to meet women survivors of the Holocaust. She met female hibakusha (survivors) of the atomic bombings of 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Cambodia, she listened to survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide. She met with women in Vietnam and the United States to hear both sides of the Vietnam War. Lee met the bereaved Palestinian and Israeli mothers, sisters and daughters who work together for peace.

In the United Kingdom and the United States, Lee recorded the stories of women refugees forced to feel the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Iraq, Syrian and other countries in conflict.

The more Lee listened to women, the more the horror and consequences of war entered into her own awakening. Then the narrative became personal as Lee’s mother, Maureen, described being a child during four years of bombing raids on her city in Northern England during the Second World War. She spoke of hiding in terror beneath the kitchen table, of having to run to the bomb shelter when the siren sounded, emerging into daylight  to broken houses and broken lives.

“You never told me,” I [Lee Karen Stow] said. “You never asked,” Lee’s mother replied. Lee vowed to keep asking.

– Lee Karen Stow

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