Life works in funny ways; in an attempt to track down the artist about whom I wrote in ‘Bread, art and politics’ I ended up with my own photography exhibition opening next wednesday 28th July at El Balad Gallery for contemporary and visual arts here in Cairo.
I’ve always been fascinated by photography and its power to convey a story by just one single image. Photos are capable of touching the viewer profoundly and some of my favourite photographers who have mastered this ability are Elliot Erwitt, Eve Arnold and Henri Cartier Bresson. The main themes of my photos revolve around farming and livestock. This specific interest was developed through my work with farmers and livestock keepers either as part of my vocational training or as a researcher and consultant for NGOs, donor agencies, research institutes and UN organizations. The human-animal relationship has been a long time interest to me. In many cultures animals have multiple functions and their importance goes far beyond that of providing its owner with income. My studies and work have often focussed on human-animal interactions and the value of animals in contributing towards people’s socio-economic and cultural well-being. This human-animal interaction is something I’ve been trying to capture through photography. More recently I’ve been experimenting with high speed photography and HDR (high dynamic range) photography and I’ve also taken an interest in photographing old abandoned buildings; I find it a challenge to capture the timeless and eerie atmosphere present in these buildings.
The title of the exhibition refers both to the masterpiece of the exhibition – a monochrome panoramic view of the city of Rome – but also to the meaning of panorama in the sense of giving an overview. This exhibition presents a diverse selection of some of my favourite photos.
The oldest photo presented here is from 1996 and was taken on El Clarin, a farm in Martinez de laTorre in Veracruz, Mexico; I was a trainee at this farm for 7 months.
There will be several photos of Raika pastoralists. The Raika are one of the largest groups of livestock herders inhabiting the western districts of Rajasthan and Gujarat in India, including the great Thar Desert. The Raika have developed their own system of animal healthcare making use of plant, animal and mineral based remedies, conventional drugs and traditional healers. I spent 8 months in Rajasthan studying the traditional animal healthcare system of the Raika.
The exhibition also shows several photos taken in Cambodia; I worked here in 2008 as a consultant for FAO studying the socio-economic impact of bird flu. The selection of photos from Cambodia both include more touristy type of scenes as well as photos taken during my work with farmers.
Other countries represented in this exhibition include Bangladesh, Cameroon, Greece and Egypt. The two landscape photos were taken in 2008 on a holiday in Norway.
The latest photo was taken in July 2010 at Mokattam mountain, Manshiyet Nasser on the outskirts of Cairo; an area referred to as the largest ‘garbage city’ in the world. Here the Zabaleen (garbage collectors) make a living out of collecting, sorting and recycling garbage.
A monochrome panorama photo shows a view of the city of Rome; a city I lived in for about 3 years and which served as the base from which I would be sent out to some of the different countries represented in this exhibition.
An announcement was made in Bikyamasr; an Egyptian and regional independent news site ttp://bikyamasr.com/wordpress/?p=14920