Cairo Photo Week captures lives of Egyptians

Everything that Cairo has to offer in terms of modern or historic sights was captured by the photographers and displayed in historic sites and buildings.
Tuesday 18/12/2018
A photograph by Amina Qaddous on display at the Cairo Photo Week. (Al Arab)
A captured moment. A photograph by Amina Qaddous on display at the Cairo Photo Week. (Al Arab)

CAIRO – The life of the Egyptians, in all the details of familiar faces, popular spirit, streets and historical buildings, was captured by photographers from different generations during Egypt’s first Cairo Photo Week.

Everything that Cairo has to offer in terms of modern or historic sights was captured by the photographers and displayed in historic sites and buildings during the open-air event in late November.

The event was spearheaded by Photopia, a photography school in Cairo dedicated to the development of the image industry in the Arab region. Photopia invited prominent photographers, academics and amateurs interested in all aspects of photography from inside and outside Egypt. Local and international partners supported and marketed the event.

Cairo Photo Week began inside two of Cairo’s major historic and tourist sites, the Kodak Passageway and the Tamara Building in Cairo.

The first site is an ancient passage beginning at Adli Street in front of the Jewish temple and distinguished by its old buildings. The second is an elegant old building on Gawad Hosny Street in the middle of Old Cairo, which Khedive Ismail once dreamed of turning into a Paris of the East.

The walls of the Kodak Passageway and of the Tamara Building were adorned with an intricate mix of photos depicting scenes, features and themes of daily life in Cairo. Thus, the camera was turned into a history narrator and a present-day witness.

Photo artist Asma Gamal said she was inspired by traditional celebrations of the seventh day following the birth of a baby. She presented detailed visual documentation of the rites during the ceremony, including placing the newborn in a sieve, beating drums and preparing a feast.

Amina Qaddous saw the image of the country in the portrait of an old woman smoking heavily and Ahmad Naji captured the departure of a horse-drawn carriage next to a three-wheeled motorised tuk-tuk in a popular neighbourhood. Sabri Khaled focused on the concentrated face of a barber giving a child a haircut.

Fathi Hawas’s camera captured the weather-beaten face of an old farmer and Mohammad Ali al-Din pictured the white powder-covered faces of workers in limestone quarries, where intense heat, dusty columns and harsh conditions make them “lose” their faces.

Photographers travelled everywhere during Cairo Photo Week, depicting living conditions of people, popular neighbourhoods, the smooth white-stoned walls of historic buildings, country-style houses, streams of pedestrians in streets and alleyways, cafe scenes of “night owls” drinking tea and playing backgammon and the modest living quarters of simple people on rooftops with their ubiquitous clotheslines.

Artists such as Heba Khalifa, May el-Shazly and Ibrahim Ezzat documented rituals and social events including weddings, henna painting and births. They and many other artists recorded work in handicraft workshops, fishing and tree climbing. Photographers Hamad Rassam, Lobna Tarek and Heba Khamis gave visions of poor disorganised neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Cairo.

In addition to outdoor photo galleries, there were lectures, workshops, photography studios, meetings with photographers and a market for photography equipment and books during the event.

There were many side activities such as workshops on fashion design, food, make-up, graphic design, magazine editing, media production and various visual, educational and discussion platforms, as well as “best photo” contests for amateurs and professionals.

Among the themes discussed in the lectures were the future of documentary image and photography in the world of fashion presented by an expert from the Paris Fashion Institute.