'Everyday Egypt' Captures Daily Life in Cairo Exhibition
The first exhibition organised by the social media project opened on Sunday, and will continue until 15 May, at the Beit El-Sura photography centre in Street 15.
As the exhibition name indicates, on display are shots that capture ordinary life around the country, taken by cameras and mobile phones.
The subjects of the photos are wide-ranging: dishes from popular restaurants, fishermen, children playing in the street, people crossing roads, an engagement in a working-class area, guards at a temple in Luxor, young workers at a marble workshop, a man fixing the satellite dish on the roof of his house, four young boys on a motorcycle, and a bread-seller on a bicycle holding his tray of bread in one hand and reading the newspaper in the other.
Most of the images are from Cairo or Alexandria, but there are also entries from Sohag, Luxor, Sinai, Minya, Ismailiya, Beni Suef and Mansoura.
"Everyday Egypt reveals the stories, habits, traditions, rituals, streets, and different patterns of Egyptian society, in a different way than the news does it. They are all the scenes that we would not find anywhere else. This is daily life," said Roger Anis, an Egyptian photographer who is now in charge of the Everyday Egypt project.
Capturing ordinary life
The photos come from the Everyday Egypt project, which has around 95,000 followers on Instagram and 350,000 on Facebook.
"We have been thinking of making our first exhibition for a year and a half, but we lacked finance, and once it was available we started," added Anis.
"We were three people responsible for choosing 35 photos for the exhibition," he said, adding that the number of submissions was 1,600.
The project launched on June 8, 2014 when President El-Sisi was inaugurated.
"All international eyes were on Egypt again, but only on the political aspect. We felt we also needed to show the everyday," Tinne Van Loon, the founder of Everyday Egypt, told Ahram Online by email.
The Belgian-American documentary photographer had always wanted to work in the Middle East. Her research for stories took her to the West Bank in Palestine, and then, in January 2013, to Egypt where she wanted to study Arabic and to work as a freelance documentary photographer and filmmaker.
"I fell so in love with life in Egypt," she comments, adding that she spent four years managing the Instagram project before moving to the USA two months ago.
"When I first started photographing Egypt, I was very conscious of the fact that what I document could easily inform Western people's impression of Egypt and the Arab world. I thought that apart of documenting serious issues such as sexual harassment and FGM, there were also many good aspects of the country. I wondered how to capture that. That's what motivated me to start Everyday Egypt, to show foreigners that life in Egypt is also fun, but it can also be familiar and even boring," Van Loon added.
She started reaching out to fellow photographers, both Egyptian and foreign, and invited them to join the project. The main concept was to capture Egypt as it is, without glamorising the country like tourism campaigns do.
That was when Anis stepped in. "I was also thinking of taking mobile photos of the daily life in the streets, so when Tinne talked to me about her project, I got excited right away," Anis added.
"We had just finished 2013, when restrictions on media increased, and no street events to be pictured. It was even hard to take photos in the streets. As a street photojournalist, I was wondering what is left to do. Everyday life seemed to be the perfect answer."
The project grew quickly and now has 22 photographers, both local and foreign, regularly uploading their pictures.
Every Friday, the photographers in charge of the page go through all photos with the hashtag #EverydayEgypt, choose the best ones and republish them on the Everyday Egypt Instagram account.
The platform's growing local popularity has also inspired many local offshoots: Cairo, Ismailiya, Beni Suef, Port Said, Fayoum all have their own pages, and the Everyday Cairo Instagram group organised their own exhibition in 2015.
From Africa to the Middle East and beyond
Everyday Egypt is not an initiative born in Egypt; it was inspired by similar projects that aimed to shed light on misrepresented parts of the world.
Before Van Loon launched her project, she was already a fan of Everyday Africa – the first of the Everyday projects– and Everyday Middle East, both of whom she asked for advice before launching Everyday Egypt.
Everyday Africa was initiated by Austin Merrill and Peter DiCampo, an American photographer and photojournalist currently based in Kenya. His previous travels include Ghana, a country which he explored in 2006 and was his first motivation to the continent.
"In 2012 I went with my colleague Austin Merrill to the Ivory Coast, where we were covering the aftermath of the civil war. We felt stuck telling the same stories, the extreme ones about war, despite the fact that most of the country was normal, so we decided to tour the country and document the daily life with our phones, and invited other photographers to contribute, and we established the Instagram account," DiCampo told Ahram Online via Skype.
"There are many news stereotypes about Africa, with images depicting it as poor, miserable, and in need of help. But those are extremes and the stories are incomplete, since they always lack the everyday life context. I felt I had a mission to tell the truth, to complete the story about Africa, the continent that became a second home to me," DiCampo added.
Everyday Africa includes pictures from all over the continent, including North African countries like Egypt, taken by both local and foreign photographers, and has 300,000 followers on Instagram.
By Hadeer El-Mehdawy
Editor's note: This article has been edited for length.
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