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Cairo Photo Week aims to support Egyptian photography community: Marwa Abu Leila - Daily News Egypt

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Cairo Photo Week aims to support Egyptian photography community: Marwa Abu Leila

Festival located in heart of Khedival Cairo hosts many local, regional, and international photographers and picture makers


As the old adage goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and is frequently interpreted to mean that complex ideas can be conveyed by a single still image.

With the aim of supporting the photography community in Egypt and Arab region, Cairo-based photographer’s hub, Photopia, opened the second edition of Cairo Photo Week this month. 

The Cairo Photo Week is a photography festival hosting many local, regional, and international photographers and picture makers. The event provides the platform for photographers, videographers, and industry makers offering workshops, talks, panel discussions, and exhibitions in Downtown Cairo. This year’s event took place under the theme of “Depth off Field”. 

Marwa Abu Leila, Founder and Managing Partner of Photopia, sat down in an interview with Daily News Egypt, to talk about this year’s event. The focus here is on the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and expand horizons for mobility and learning, through work in various fields of photography

Cairo Photo Week

What inspired you to hold the Cairo Photo Week festival? What is the festival’s goal since it was established?

The festival aims to support and encourage the community of photographers in Egypt, and to strengthen relations between workers in this field. It also aims to present local and regional talents, in a global artistic event that seeks to attract and bring together the photography community in Egypt, the Middle East and Africa. This is through educational lectures, workshops, and exhibitions.

A total of 70% of the festival took place as educational sessions, whilst 30% was exhibitions and studios for showcasing photography work. 

This year’s festival took place after the huge success of the first festival in 2018. The festival’s first edition had the greatest impact on the photography community in Egypt, as it hosted more than 90 Egyptian, regional, and international speakers and lecturers.  

More than 1,500 visitors participated in the 2018 festival, including photographers and filmmakers from Egypt and the Arab region.

Could you tell us more about this year’s festival?  Why did you choose to call the festival ‘Cairo Photo Week’?

We chose this name because it is an international and global event in which photographers from all over the world participate. The festival includes various different activities in the photography field, including exhibitions, workshops, educational lectures, seminars and field trips. 

This year’s festival saw the participation of 140 photographers from all over the world, and more than 90 speakers participated in 11 exhibitions, 80 seminars, and 11 workshops. We expected to see more than 2,000 visitors at the event. 

The festival this year saw a special exhibition of cinematography held, entitled “Cima”. A number of Egyptian artists, most importantly cinematographers, participated including Mohsen Ahmed, Ahmed Al-Morsy, Abdel Salam Moussa, Sameh Selim, Victor Kreidy, Nancy Abdel Fattah, and Islam Abdel Samie.

This year’s festival included virtual online broadcasts for some of the festival’s activities, such as discussion sessions and exhibitions. This aimed to expand the audience and attract new segments from different geographic regions, age groups, and nationalities, seeing about 1,500 online participants.

What activities were held at this year’s festival?

The festival lasted for 10 days, from 11 to 20 March, and was held in four historical sites in downtown ​​Cairo. 

 These four locations included the factory area, in which most of the discussions and exhibitions were held. The Rawabet Theatre hosted talks and seminars, whilst Kodak hosted experimental workshops and studios.

Why did you choose to hold fairs, and what concept does your current exhibition revolve around?

The exhibitions were all held close to each other, at four different areas in Downtown Cairo. We also held a workshop entitled ‘Photo walk’, in which the workshop presenter took a group of photographers to roam the streets of Cairo, and take some pictures of the distinctive architecture and historical sites.

This year’s festival took place under the theme “Depth Of Field”, focusing on the human ability to adapt in difficult circumstances, expanding horizons for mobility, and learning through work in various fields of photography. 

Cairo Photo Week

Why did you choose Khedivial Cairo for this year’s event? What are the participating exhibitions?

Khedivial Cairo was chosen to host the festival because this place is the heart of Cairo. Cooperating with Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment, the Photopia school organised the second edition of Cairo Photo Week festival. 

The Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment company is responsible for reviving Khedivial Cairo and the restoration of all its historical buildings. 

We held 11 different exhibitions, all of which hold great importance, especially an exhibition of cinematography entitled “Cima” which brought together seven of the most important cinematographers in Egypt. There were also two important exhibitions called “Sard” and “Personal”.

How did you choose the photos that were showcased at the festival? How many artists participated in the exhibitions?

Choosing photos is based on different criteria, but mainly the photos should meet each exhibition’s objectives. The final goal of the exhibitions is to enrich the visual memory of the audience. 

About 140 photographers from all over the world participated in the festival including many photographers from the US and France, such as Maggie Steber, Felix Kunz, and Marie Sumala. 

They are among the most prominent photographers in various fields of photography which ensure the integration of different cultures in Egypt, the land of civilisations.

Cairo Photo Week

Can you tell us more about Photopia? What are the company’s goals, and how do you support amateur photographers?

Photopia is an independent photography school. I founded the company with my partner Karim El-Khadem, to create a platform for the photography community in Egypt and the region. The company started working in Cairo in 2012 to help any talented photographer, regardless of their being amateur or professional. 

Photopia is a place that brings together all talents and experiences, and provides many services to the photography community in Egypt. This includes the School of Photography, which provides a wide range of photography education through training courses, workshops, and seminars presented by photographers, videographers, photographers, and filmmakers from Egypt and the Middle East. 

Photopia is a hub for photographers, providing them with any technical advice. We believe that Egypt has exceptional photographers who can compete in international photography festivals.

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