6 Photographers Documenting Beauty in Mundane Egypt
Street photography is on the rise in Egypt with a group of artists taking scenes from the run of the mill and bringing them to life through their lenses. With the easing of regulations on photography in public places in Egypt from 2020, the streets of Cairo, and Egypt in general, have become full of these artists; their playground.
By recording moments that are quintessential examples of living in Egypt, these artists find beauty in the world. That cart ful (fava beans) sitting on a busy street corner, lonely and inconspicuous, is suddenly the main character in the center of the scene; that child balancing perfectly with a basket of freshly baked balada bread on his head, transformed into the star of the show; and the neighborhood presser going about his daily duties of turning prosaic into the hero of the odyssey.
What a good street photographer does is capture the unfolding story in those long moments that the rest of the world is too busy to notice.
These are the photographers who reshape a humdrum scene into a visual story full of vibrancy and magic.
Egyptian photographer Nader Saadallah is a videographer and documentary film director who has won over 84 awards since 2010. His work has appeared in a range of prestigious publications including National Geographic, Sony World Photography, CNN and Foto Magazine .
His interest in street photography arose from the spontaneity which is the defining characteristic of the method. “It’s great to see a dynamic photo that gives the impression of a movie scene,” says Saadallah. “I want to achieve that perspective through my artistic vision.”
Saadallah’s photography takes the ordinary and turns it into a spectacle, capturing his subjects in the middle of the action.
Mostafa Ahmed, whose work is featured on the popular Everyday Egypt Instagram account, is the winner of the Cultures of Resistance (CoR) Award. The award, launched in 2020, celebrates artists whose art is at the forefront of positive change.
Ahmed uses a combination of techniques to document the origins of Egypt. From the candy floss street vendors on their bikes to the run-down buildings, and the men smoking their hookahs peacefully in the corner ahwa (cafe), his portrayal of the country is as attractive as it is true.
A graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Alexandria University and an interior designer by trade, Mona Hassan began her journey with photography in 2016. What inspired her most about street photography was the opportunity it gave her to put her pulse in expressed on the streets of the city. The artist has several awards to her name including the International Photography Award (IPA), the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award (HIPA) and the Tokyo International Photo Award (TIFA).
“Photography is my way of witnessing the joy of seeing the extraordinary,” she explains to Streets of Egypt.
Fathi Hawas is a visual artist, teaching assistant and visual producer. When it comes to his photography, the artist manages to give his subjects an ethereal aura by visually blurring the lines between reality and dreams. His work transforms unexceptional scenes into works of wonder, and gives the viewer Egypt as seen through his eyes.
Lamees Saleh is a documentary photographer based in Cairo whose work deals with themes of human truths. After studying at the School of Media and Journalism in Denmark, visual storytelling on social issues inspired her work. The photographer was awarded the AFAC and the Prince Claus Fund in 2022. Much of the time, her photography not only expresses her own reflection but also the human condition.
“I feel that street photography shows how rich reality really is,” explains Saleh. “And I believe in the Robert Adams quote ‘there is no boring place, if you have a good night’s sleep and a pocket full of unexposed film.'”
Ahmed Aasem Elsawy
Ahmed Aasem Elsawy is an architect who practices street photography as a hobby. He describes his photo collection as a visual book for people to read.
“I think every street has a different story. Every street, every lane, every house is full of faces and places that have a story to tell,” he says.
Through his lens, Elsawy gives an insight into the spirit of a country steeped in history. From mosques, and forgotten doors in old Cairo, to birds flying over the City of the Dead, the artist reproduces scenes that attract his audience.
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