Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Thinker Near the Blue Mosque

I loved Cairo. I loved living there and I miss it terribly. There are some things that bring it back in a second - I heard a snatch of a song by Amr Diab the other day was was instantly and suddenly homesick for a city that was only temporarily my home. For a second I was almost disoriented and could sense a rush of that dead summer heat, and the discomfort of an uncooled cab in a traffic jam.

The problem with living in other countries is that the whole idea of belonging somewhere becomes blurred. I know I am Australian and I always knew that the stay in Egypt was finite. At the same time I was seduced by the city - the enormous unweildy bulk of people, the struggles they have just to scrape a living and the usual dignity with which they do it. I feel torn sometimes, never again quite the person I was before I lived there, and yet Australian friends are sometimes a bit affronted when the work I make at the moment is hovering somewhere around the Middle East.

That is my whinge for the day.

I have been sorting photos. I have enough to ensure that I will never run out of topics to write about.

In our last few weeks we walked a lot in Old Islamic Cairo. If you go to Bab Zuweilah and keep walking instead of turning in to the Tentmakers' Street, you will eventually get to the Blue Mosque. It is a beautiful mosque and will be the subject of another blog. I was trialing a new camera with a really marvelous 10x optical zoom - a sneaky camera with a twisting and turning lens so you can seem to be looking in another direction, as you take photos. It is not perfect in other ways - but great for candid portraits.

I am still not sure how I feel about the ethics of taking people who are unaware that they are being photographed. I know in America it would be not permitted. In Australia as long as you are in a public place people do not own their own images and you do not have to ask them to sign releases to use their images. I know in Egypt there are few personal rights.

I was photographing some of the marvelous and deteriorating architecture of the Blue Mosque and over one arch I saw a movement. I focused the lens, and took this.


Then this. He sat above the street and opposite the Mosque, though it is hard to get an effect of how far away he was. His head turned as he smoked and watched the constant stream of people and taffic in the street below.


I moved closer, met his eyes and raised my eyeborws for permission to take the images. He nodded, watched me for a little while then lost interest. It was hardly a balcony - more the roof of the shop below with a rigged sunscreen. Behind him was a huge advertising poster.


I was fascinated by the juxtapoistion of the image on the screen and with him, and the more I look at it the more he looks like the man in the image. Is it just that they are both fair Egyptians? Is it my imagination?


It does not really matter. I just find that now and again his image comes back and floats around my head for a while.

I gave him his photographs before I left and he was obviously happy to have them.


Blogger Feather on a Wire said...

I love 'your' Egypt'
We're off there in October but sadly not the real thing. Just a weeks snorkelling in Taba. At least it helps their economy a little.
Perhaps next year.....

2:28 am  
Blogger Lalhezar said...

I have only just found your blog and am slowly working my through your last three years. I am fascinated by your experiences and particularly your images. Your landscapes are beautiful but your views of the people of Cairo and their daily world leaves me breathless. They are so uniquely beautiful. It seems to me that you will have inspiration for your work for the the next ten years. I too live in Canberra and am involved in the textile world. Your unique view of another society has inspired me to look anew at my experiences in this micro worldto see these ot from new perspective. OI hope you are settling back into your life in such a different world from the one you so beautifully illustrate and describe.

7:06 pm  
Anonymous vishav bhraman said...

Nice article..

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10:48 pm  

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