Ameera Fouad finds out how a photo can change lives in Alexandria
Since a photo is worth 1,000 words, then random photos of people living in poverty can be quite special. That would be the message from the View Finders Photography Club. Although it opened only in February last year, the club has been recognised by FIAP (International Federation of Photographic Art) as No 81 in the world.
The club’s main target is social work through two major projects held more than 10 times a year in many areas across Alexandria: Photography for Charity and Help Portrait.
Help Portrait is the first project of its kind to be held in Egypt. Even though the idea behind Charity and Help Portrait has been carried out elsewhere in the world, View Finders has Egyptianised this project to suit the Egyptian environment. As Ayman Gamal, a 29-year-old accountant and one of the founders of the club, put it, “We simply Egyptianised the project. We go to very poor areas in Alexandria like Kom Al-Dekka, Bakus, Brolos and Max and we take photos of people there haphazardly. We do not choose people but we just shoot people while sitting, standing, working, eating, smiling, or having their morning cup of tea. We usually take more than 500 photos of the whole neighbourhood and we return to our studios to print them out. After printing, we return to the neighbourhood and hang these photos in a sort of exhibition. Seeing peoples’ reactions upon seeing their photos being displayed on their neighbourhood walls are moments cherished by everyone,” Gamal added.
Most people in poor neighbourhoods, in addition to not having any cameras, do not have studios and the cost of taking pictures has become expensive. Amm Sayed, elderly chief of the Kom Al-Dekka neighborhood, told Al-Ahram Weekly, “When these young men and ladies came to me at first, I was afraid people might not accept being photographed by strangers. However, these photographers are not only photographers, they are humans. Honestly, I tried them first and I saw how alive the photos are. The photos talk. The photos are not only photos. They speak everything about the neighbourhood and people living here... There are some people here who have never been photographed before. To see a photo of them is like a miracle.”
This is one of the most touching incidents that Mohamed Dallal, a 21-year-old engineering student and one of the founders of the club, recalls. “There was little Menna, eight years old, who had chemotherapy in one of our visits to a hospital. Menna lost all her hair during treatment. She wouldn’t allow us at all to photograph her. She cried and screamed at the mere thought of trying to shoot her. She thought she had a dreadful look “with no hair”. Nevertheless, one of our photographers sneaked into her room and took a shot of her. The next day she was surprised to see on her side table in hospital a beautiful photo of her in a frame.”
On a parallel note, Photography for Charity is another project which helps financially and emotionally all patients who have tumours. That’s in collaboration with Ayadi Al-Mostakbel, an NGO which endorses and financially supports many charitable projects around Egypt. “The main theme of this project is to have an exhibition, to see our photos and the profits are all given to Ayadi Al-Mostakbal to make the best of the money. We could get LE10,000 or LE20,000 out of a single exhibition. Last year, we were able to get LE22,000 and we built rooftops on houses in Hawis, a very poor area in Alexandria’s outskirts,” Dallal added.
View Finders has also received international awards, always taking first place in National Geographic Egypt and in EPIC (Egyptian Photography International Contest). These young photographers conduct many workshops, seminars and field trips for all those who are fond of photography. As Dallal puts it: “View Finders Photography Club is the image you want.”