In 2021 a photography project took me 1,900 kilometers down the Tigris River through Turkey, Syria and Iraq. By the time we reached the city of Kut, in central Iraq, I had been camping along the riverbanks for nearly two months, mostly in the company of men, with the occasional night hosted by a local family. Here in Kut, at the home of a fisherman’s family, I was able to have some precious time with other women. I was also able to join their weekly ritual of washing one another’s hair. In the morning, four sisters woke me with tea, fried eggs and bread, and they turned on the faucet to fill a basin. We took turns washing, and then the sisters joined up in a line to comb and plait one another’s hair. It was a gentle moment, the kind I like to share and that replenishes me on a journey. My own hair was being plaited as I took this photo.

—Emily Garthwaite