2020 Iris Awards – Travel Category

Travel Photography Cairo

Faces of Cairo is a collection of photographs that take you on a tour of the land and its people; the streets, the markets, the African desert, and the path of history.

Cairo is chaos at its most magnificent, infuriating and beautiful. From above, the distorted roar of the muezzins’ call to prayer echoes out from duelling minarets. Below, car horns bellow tuneless symphonies amid avenues of faded 19th-century grandeur, while donkey carts rattle down dusty lanes lined with colossal monuments. This city’s constant buzz is a product of its 30 million inhabitants, simultaneously stretching Cairo’s infrastructure, crushing it under their collective weight. The smog is heavy and car toots are overwhelming, but its energy is stimulating and exhilarating!

In January 2020, I was lucky to visit the ancient city and tell the story of its people. What stood out to me the most was how friendly the people were. I first shook their hands warmly and then asked in Arabic: “Can I take your photo?” I gave people my full attention and most were delighted to have their portrait taken, especially once they learnt that I came from Israel and that I live in New Zealand. I showed them the image on the back of my camera which made them feel respected. I consider it my privilege to be able to share these glimpses into their lives with the wider world.

I wanted to visit Cairo for a long time and was so glad when the opportunity came. I always admired the long and rich history of Egypt and found the experience of modern-day Cairo to be incredible in its own right. The whole city buzzes with all kinds of different people, and despite many of them being poor, they have a wonderful faith in Allah.

My visit to Egypt was a spiritual journey, I always dreamt of visiting Egypt. The historical link between Israel and Egypt goes back thousands of years: a history of war and peace. In reading the Haggadah during Passover Seder every year, I celebrate the ancient history together with the family. The Haggadah describes the exodus of the Israelite slaves who built the pyramids in Egypt. The most interesting part is the ten plagues that God inflicted on the Egyptian people in order to convince Pharaoh to free the Twelve Tribes.

Faces of Cairo is a documentary collection. Most of the photos had little or no retouching. I asked people to look straight into my camera, so these are not candid photos. The strength of this series is in giving viewers a rare opportunity to connect with the common Egyptian people in their natural environment. This diverse group of people serves as a timely reminder that, despite our many cultural differences, we can unite as a community through the power of photography. The collection is a celebration of our shared values: hard work, the importance of family and caring for each other as humans. I hope that through this portfolio viewers learn more about the Egyptian people. In sharing this portfolio I encourage viewers to show empathy: to accept others and to recognise the value of cultural diversity. We would all experience an enhanced sense of community if we took the time to appreciate interactions which allow us to discover the world beyond our familiar boundaries. We are all wonderfully unique, yet, at the same time, we are deeply similar.

I present these photographs in timeless monochrome, to ensure consistency and flow of the series amidst the chaos and clutter of the busy environment. My aim is to create an authentic portfolio of diverse individuals in a foreign land, to tell their stories using a clear narrative style and enduring quality. The portraits are crisp and sharp, to allow the details to inspire your imagination and to evoke emotions. I hope that viewers will experience the atmosphere and connect with the people.

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