Downtown Cairo is currently playing host to the very first edition of Cairo Photo Week, a nine-day festival of all things photographic. Featuring exhibitions, talks, and panel discussions, the event, which kicked off on November 21, serves as a platform for Arab visual artists to showcase their talent. Among the immensely skilled photographers participating in the Photopia-organized event is Bassam Allam, a renowned fashion photographer who splits his time between Berlin, Munich, and Cairo.
The 30-year-old, who served as a keynote speaker during the festival, has made a name for himself with his surreal images “produced from his subconscious”. Allam, who first pursued photography in 2011, has quickly gained international recognition for his conceptual work— his photos “Portrait of Adima” and “Through the Glass” were both commended in the portrait category of the open competition at the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards, which receives over 300,000 submissions from 210 countries and territories each year.
This fact certainly makes Allam the ideal choice to provide insight to up-and-coming visual artists attending the inaugural Photo Week. “During my talk, I broke down the process of creating a fashion photograph, from learning about yourself and choosing a direction in photography, building your knowledge and finding inspiration, to understanding what you are photographing and executing a concept,” explains the photographer to Vogue.me. “The talk also included guidelines and industry insights on how to assure achieving the best results while maintaining a unique style,” he states. The surrealist reveals that he feels it is his duty to share the knowledge and experience that he has with young, emerging talents, and has been spearheading workshops or hosting photography talks in Cairo since 2012.
But while the photography scene in Egypt is still premature in comparison to other parts of the MENA region — for instance, Dubai’s GPP Photo Week (the region’s longest-running photography event) launched in 2004— Allam is hopeful. He believes that events such as Cairo Photo Week further help to nurture the growing photography scene in the North African country. “Feeling the energy at the event, and seeing how everyone is inspired describes the meaning of this event the best way,” reflects the photographer. “The photography scene in Egypt is already taking huge leaps in the past few years. I believe more dedicated education, more exhibitions, more events, and time is needed. The formation of photography associations and agencies would also be of great importance.”