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Thread is a collaboration between Jason Walters, a former Islamic extremist, and myself as an image producer. Through a dialogical working method we delve into the intricacies of Islamic terrorism’s visual and communicative strategies, as well as its presence in mass media.

In a series of meetings, Walters and I investigated the case of Mohammed Emwazi, also known as ‘Jihadi John’ — a notorious British terrorist named after John Lennon. Emwazi was part of a four-person terrorist cell distinguished by the members’ strong British accents, which eventually became famous as ‘The Beatles’. ‘Jihadi John’ rose to fame between 2014 and 2015 when footage of beheadings was released online by the ‘Islamic State’. Vivid headlines filled Western media in a period that followed and gradually established ‘Jihadi John’ as an anonymous symbol, while the person behind the mask became exchangeable. Although Emwazi remains the main suspect, forensic doubt he was responsible for all the killings. With the recordings showing only the preparation or the aftermath of the execution, the actual act of killing became a blank space. Thread is about this blank space, undoing the mythical constructs surrounding the image of ‘Jihadi John’ by consciously engaging with Emwazi’s life story and photographically revisiting the places where he grew up and formed his ideological views.

The practice of nicknaming terrorists is a common editorial strategy among media outlets. While increasing readership numbers, this approach envelops terrorists in a mythical persona which, in turn, aids the terrorists’ mission of perpetuating fear.

In showing that extremism often comes from within, the project leans on the idea of homegrown terrorism, taking us to the heart of London in order to better understand a threat that supposedly comes from the other. The constant presence of green screens stands for the blanks in the story, reflecting on the projective nature of nicknames, as well as photographic images themselves.

I like to understand this dialogue as a way of countering extremism, shifting from a threat as a danger to a thread as a discours