Yes we can fly
enjoys another photography exhibition that reflects the spirit of new Egypt
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Clockwise from top: "Yes we can fly" by Emad Karim; "Wait and see" by Amy El-Sharawi; "Khaled Said" by Mohamed El-Hadidi; "Happy Eid" by Mohamed Gamal; "Family and pottery" by Walid Ibrahim and "Move forward Egypt" by Mohamed Kamal
"New Egypt" is the title given to the 2012 European Union's photographic competition, which has celebrated its fourth year. After three successful previous rounds during which it has gained popularity among amateur photographers and art critics in Egypt, the exhibition of this year's entries was held last week at the residence of the ambassador of the European Commission in Cairo and proved more exciting than ever.
Out of 300 entries, the competition jury selected 30 photographs showing features of life in the new Egypt, pictures of a life the photographers either believed in or dreamt of.
Mohamed Kamal, a salesman from Port-Said, won the first prize of €1,000 for his photograph "Move forward, Egypt". The second prize went to Emad Karim, a computer programmer who won an SLR digital camera, while Mohamed Ahmed Gamal won the jury's special mention.
Mustafa Ahmed AbdelAtti, an engineer, received the Mohamed Hassan Award, a new prize established for the best photo-journalism entry in memory of the young photographer Mohamed Hassan, winner of the first photographic competition held in 2008 , "Egypt: Life in a Picture", organised by the EU Delegation to Egypt. Hassan, a very talented photographer who had won many prizes in his short career, passed away two years ago in a dramatic accident. Abdel-Atti's prize was also a SLR digital camera.
The aim of the competition is to promote and stimulate creativity among amateur photographers in Egypt, and to give them an opportunity to showcase their work to a wide audience.
The jury who selected the 30 best photographs was a group of prominent professional photographers made up of Randa Shaath, the picture editor of Al-Shourouk newspaper; Khaled Desouki, photographer with AFP; and renowned photographers Xenia Nikolskaya and Thomas Hartwell.
"I have been struck by the ability of these photographers to capture the infectious and powerful spirit of the Egyptian people at this unique moment in their national history. Their hope, energy, courage, solidarity and patriotism radiate through these pages and force one to reflect on what this year's events prove about human spirit's perseverance," said Mark Franco, head of the delegation of the European Commission in Cairo.
"I believe firmly in the power of culture and art to transmit powerful messages about the human experience, and I am grateful to every one of our contestants for sharing their vision for Egypt with us," he added.
Kamal , the first prize winner, has been a devoted participant of the annual competition. In last year's event, "Egypt's Celebrations", his three entries were among the 30 winning pictures. However, his joy this year was incomparable, with the first prize putting him on the track of professional photography.
"The picture expresses my own perspective of the status of Egypt now. The idea struck me when I found out that the 25 January stickers were so popular that most cars in Egypt carried them," Kamil told Al-Ahram Weekly.
His winning picture shows the back of an old car that carries the sticker: "Egypt, 25 January" to replace the usual metal number plate, and with the hands of a young man pushing it forward.
"The picture was not a coincidence. It was taken in an old garage in the so-called Arab district in Port Said. And it took me some time to find a suitable car and set up the scene," he told the Weekly. "I hope that the car, or Egypt, takes the right track amidst the fierce competition in the world today."
Kamal says he prefers taking symbolic pictures rather than documentary ones. "Documentary shots require a kind of photo-journalistic skill," he says.
Kamal believes photography is one of the arts that could help upgrade the social and economic status of his home town, Port Said. "I have posted many pictures on many online sites in Port Said, like the Port Said Café and Group Al-Maadiya."
He also believes that in the absence of an academic institution in Egypt that teaches photography as an independent art, such competitions, hand in hand with Internet sites such as FaceBook, strongly encourage amateur photographers to develop.
Gamal, 19 years old and an electric engineering student at Menoufiya University won the special mention of the Jury with his "Happy Eid" photo. Gamal, who has been studying photography online for the past six months, told the Weekly he had opted to feature the simple pleasure of poor children in Nabi Danyal Street in Alexandria, whose only joy at the feast is to roam around the streets of the city riding in a cart.
"Yes, we can fly" is the title of another brilliant picture featuring a young man jumping high and joyfully like a bird and crossing the horizon to another world. The picture by Emad Karim, a senior computer specialist, was taken in the historical Islamic area near the Citadel in Cairo. It shows a family picnicking on grass, combining old history and contemporary elements in one shot.
Other photographs featured the unity between Muslims and Christians during the days of the uprising and scenes from the revolution. A picture entitled "Khaled Said", the icon of the Egyptian revolution, was taken by Mohamed El-Hadidi, a movie director. This photograph features a close shot of an ugly face of a policeman, whose expression speaks volumes about his disgust of the people and their revolution. "Steadfast" is a picture by Beshoi Fayez Abdu, a project coordinator, featuring a graffito scrawled in red on a Downtown wall. The word "steadfast" is written in bold red, decorated with names of Muslim and Coptic protestors inscribed in white. An old man sleeping with his head on a carton box just beside the graffito confirms how persistent Egyptians were in toppling the old regime.
Another symbolic photograph features a child looking down from a window of his apartment. The apartment building looks ugly and unpainted on the outside, but the window is painted bright green. The shot was taken by Emi El-Sharawi, an administrator at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Just as the picture's title "Wait and see" suggests, it is, I believe, the perfect slogan for this unsure period of Egypt's contemporary history.
The 30 best images will be exhibited publicly and will be included in a special catalogue of the photography competition winners to be published by the European Commission delegation.