When travelling to a different country, there’s no better way to get a fulfilling and non-commercialised experience by understanding and navigating terrain that is new and foreign to you with the help of an insider - someone who knows and is sensitive to the intricacies of the culture there.
We’ve all seen tourist images of Egypt and really, they’re the same ol’, same ol’: relics of Ancient Egypt - the Syphnx, pyramids, monuments. and other bastions of this period in history. But the truth is, Egypt is so much more than it’s past and it seems that many still see it as a country that reached its peak in centuries gone by. For this very reason, the work of Egyptian-based photographer Habiba sheds an intimate and important insiders perspective of life in parts of Egypt, mostly Cairo, firsthand.
As part of this month’s focus on ‘Travel & Exploration’, I spoke to Habiba about her experiences photographing sights, sounds and scenes in her own country.
In about five sentences or less, can you tell us a little about yourself. Who is the person behind the blog?
I am Habiba, a self-taught Egyptian photographer who’s absolutely fascinated by Art & travel. I live in busy Cairo where my inspiration comes from. I try to show the beauty in the simple things I see while adding a touch of my identity even when I travel. I love Architecture and things that bring dynamism to the eye, and that’s what I try to capture.
What are the main objectives of your blog? What led or inspired you to create it?
I have always wanted to study photography but never really got a chance to, so I decided I need to keep doing what I love and teach myself somehow. Photography is all about practice and trying new things and so a yearly project seemed like a perfect idea to challenge myself and keep up with my progress. I also consider it a way to document special moments and the wonderful underestimated things I see in daily life.
Since starting this blog, what has kept you motivated and/or what new things have you learned along the way?
The project is really helping me figure out my own style in photography. It pushes me to try new techniques and shoot new things and therefore get better as a photographer.
In my experience, I learned to shoot with whatever camera I’ve got, whether it’s a phone, digital or film camera, and I learned that good cameras don’t make you a good photographer. Of course, better cameras help with quality but It’s really all about showing the world things from your own creative perspective rather than depending on advanced technology.
Most of all, I learned that the best shots are natural spontaneous ones. Anyone can get a pretty model and ask her to fake a smile but it takes a true photographer to freeze real moments and turn them into Art.
You never accompany your photos with captions, can you explain the reason behind this?
I feel like this helps my audience interact with me and, in a way, get involved in the project. I want them to wonder what this photograph is all about and trigger their imagination. I also really encourage and appreciate questions about my work as well as feedback.
African women photographers seem very hard to come by, something I find incredibly frustrating as both a woman and lover of photography. Do you share these frustrations or have you ever felt that being a woman has ever restricted you in some way from areas in the world of art/photography that men can more easily access?
That is so true! I get so frustrated for the same reason. Of course, it depends on what kind of work the photographer wants to do. For example, I find Travel and Street photography harder for females. It’s no secret that women have not been exactly looked at as equals in many societies for many reasons, so it can be odd for a woman to go out shooting alone in some areas. I also have to admit that I sometimes worry about other people’s reactions to me taking photos of them or something around them, whereas men are usually more brave in cases like these.
To be fair though, it does have its advantages such as shooting sensitive or intimate cases that involve women, or even in wedding photography since the bride can feel more comfortable.
In the end, sexism is an issue suffered around the world in most fields and not just in photography. I am personally not worried because a lot of actions have been taken against this issue so far and more people are becoming aware of it everyday.
Who and or what inspires/motivates you/your work? Any fellow African photographers?
I am always checking Art blogs and websites such as mymodernmet & colossal, nothing inspires me more than seeing good Art by amazing artists around the world.
I can’t think of a specific photographer or artist right now but I have met amazing photographers around where I live that truly inspire me. As for motivation, it’s enough knowing someone appreciates or relates to my work.