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Nafas Art Magazine – Website
“Ahmed Kamel: The Berlin-based artist from Cairo uses a variety of media to dissect the conscious and unconscious choices that have come to define human experiences.”
www.cairo360.com – Website
Almasry Alyoum – Newspaper
“Framing celebrity: Ahmed Kamel’s photographs”
Al-Masry Al-Youm – Newspaper
“Ordinary lives turned into art”
Ahram Weekly – Newspaper
“The house of mirrors”
Egyptian Mail – Newspaper
A home from “The Home”
Ahram Weekly – Newspaper
Sarah Carr is invited into the good living room
Daily Star – Newspaper
“Snapshots of modern Egyptian life”
The Daily News Egypt – Newspaper
“In the eye of the beholder”
Farah El Alfy
“The photograph, the construct, the self”
Nafas Art Magazine – Website
Ahmed Kamel: The Berlin-based artist from Cairo uses a variety of media to dissect the conscious and unconscious choices that have come to define human experiences.
Ahmed Kamel scrutinises the world with finesse. The Berlin-based artist from Cairo uses a variety of media to dissect the conscious and unconscious choices that have come to define human experiences. The type of medium is strictly related to the topic Kamel wishes to depict. Photography, for example, is his weapon of choice for exploring social issues. His documentary-style images focus on mundane daily or occasional events, “domestic and social structures have had quite a big impact on my artwork” explains Kamel, “these visual representations can provide clues about people in a certain society and their lives, and act as a marker of their social and cultural background”.
In his quest to understand the way self-consciousness and self-representation interplay in social identity, Kamel has often chosen to use the private home as a reflection of people’s individuality. In his series, Home-The Self (2003 – 2008), the artist portrays people through elements of their belongings. Those that have been carefully chosen, for example, a couch and its decorative cushions, as well as ones likely bought more casually, like an ironing board. These objects become the portrait of their absent owners. In Family Portraits (2003-ongoing), however, the subjects are present. Kamel captures families from all over the world gathered in their living rooms. A sensitive aura radiates from the manner in which these relatives welcome the foreign gaze within their intimate environments. Each member chooses how to present themselves as a group, as well as individuals within said group; one might retain a grave expression while another can’t help but laugh.
This complicity is also illustrated in the series Sight (2012), in which the artist portrays individuals who have had their eyes injured during the 2011 Egyptian uprising. For this project, Kamel asked his subjects to choose a loved one to pose alongside them in their favourite corner of the house, resulting in tender moments that contrast the violence of the series’ theme. A lot can be guessed from these humble images, “the home, its interiors and its inhabitants are loaded with visual fragments of personal histories, tastes and aspirations” explains the artist, “in other words, home is a space where people might express themselves freely, especially in big cities. The different ways in which these spaces are designed, and their people are dressed, symbolise the taste and habits of a specific social class and represent the image they claim.” Behind the camera, Kamel attempts to disappear, leaving his subjects the freedom to stage themselves however they prefer, and interferes as little as possible with the general look of the image, anchoring his practice in reality.
The artist prefers other mediums for expressing more personal and conceptual ideas, in particular, drawing. “While drawing nothing separate between the will and the result, except for the pen and white surface,” he says, “for me, it’s the closest medium to express feelings and thoughts”. His installation Spiral (2010), for example, explores the concept of conflict. It consists of ten drawings arranged in a circle near two televisions, broadcasting a video of dogs barking at one another. On each piece of paper, a spiral is drawn in black ink, forming dense and abstract shapes. Staring at those inescapable vortex provides a salient feeling of an endless battle. An effect sought by Kamel for whom “a spiral usually emerges from a small point; dramatically moving and growing like a fire/snow-ball. It might get intertwined and spread like cancer, or it might appear agile and systematic. In any case, it is a complex composite, and the conflict between its lines is not easy to solve, whether it is an inner or an external, multi-layered conflict”.
Kamel explored the power of a symbol’s repetition in several other works including The Book (2014) and Repetitive Units (2014). In the latter, the artist drew a series of lines on white pages. Some are extremely condensed, hundreds of strokes dashed against one another in nervous motion. Others are ordered and graceful, following a straight path. Some are chaotic and rebellious, darting off in all directions. This diversity reminds us of the different types of energies and powers that surround us. In Kamel’s poetic words, “the life apparatus draws the line of life that looks like horizontal lines. Stream of consciousness, it is about futility and repetition, it is about breath and heart, it is about language and understanding, it is about earth movement and landscape, it is about sound and skyline, it is about stability and swinging, it is about statistics and relations, it is about rhythm and sleep, it is about levels of light and darkness”.
The third medium that Kamel often uses is video, which overlaps the centre line between the documentary nature of his photography and the introspective essence of his drawings. For example, Monologue (2010) is a video that consciously splices together archive clips of old made-for-tv nationalist song and dance extravaganzas, intercut with dry urban video footage and abstract sound, “while the songs provide strong nostalgic amusement, they represent national collective memory and a certain emotional power. By contrast, the video footage almost comes across as a laconic non-response or even emptiness” explains Kamel. Just like his photography projects, Monologue explores the markers of social identity, extended this time to the artificial construction of national identity and patriotic feelings. Viewers’ emotions swing from the elation of the idealised homeland praised in songs and mesmerising choreographies, to the harshness of reality, perceived through glimpses of everyday life.
The above examples are representative of the varied body of work produced by Ahmed Kamel. What binds all of them together is the way in which the artist questions others, as well as his own beliefs, with the same sense of acuity. Each tool and medium provide unique answers to the questions Kamel wishes to trigger, explore or deconstruct, resulting in a sensitive analysis of life in our modern day organised societies.
www.cairo360.com – Website
How would you represent the inner star inside yourself? This is the question that artist Ahmed Kamel asked in order to create his newest exhibition, Local Star, currently on display at the Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art in Downtown.
A graduate of the fine arts department at Helwan University, Kamel has always shown an interest in exploring social constructs using photography, and in this collection of larger-than-life portraits, the artist explores how we construct understandings of ourselves. Kamel began the project by posting ads in cafés and art institutions around Cairo that were frequented by local stage actors. The ads requested that people donate their time in a photo shoot, specifying that participants should ‘dress to impress,’ displaying their ’most wonderful look.’ Kamel then took the time to speak with the participants about how they wish represent the best in themselves, including their preferences for background, pose and colours. In his portraits, Kamel interprets these individual desires while attempting to create photographs that are visually arresting.
In this, Kamel succeeds. When walking into the exhibition, the viewer is first met by a large installation of light bulbs mounted on wood in the shape of the Arabic word for star. The rest of the collection consists of over twenty large, highly-stylised portraits with a different individual as the focal point. The colours are magnificent and bright in every portrait, but each individual is strikingly unique in style and pose. One depicts a young man in knock-off designer clothes against the backdrop of rugged mountains, while another depicts an elderly woman in her favourite brown higab surrounded by abstract shapes.
The space itself is perhaps a little too cramped to do Kamel’s collection justice. The tiny gallery is located down a narrow alleyway off of Champollion Street and is not much larger than an apartment.
Although the colours are bright and most of the subjects are smiling, there is something definitively and purposefully haunting about Local Star. Both the subject matter and the visual pieces themselves are toying with the concept of reality. The sense that all of the subjects are trying too hard to represent themselves in highly unrealistic manors is palpable and makes the viewer somewhat uncomfortable. The intensity of each subject’s eyes, most of which are making direct eye contact with the viewer, is also disconcerting. As viewers of unrealistic ideals of others’; we are left to question our own connection or disconnection from reality and the manner in which we choose to represent ourselves.
Almasry Alyoum – Newspaper
Framing celebrity: Ahmed Kamel’s photographs
Portrait photography has long been concerned with celebrity. Early photographs aimed to capture the stature of their subjects who were limited to a privileged class, as photography was an expensive medium. In Egypt, the first use of photography was for a portrait of Egyptian viceroy Mohammed Ali Pasha in 1839, followed by photographs of the royal family. As the medium grew more accessible it remained focused on fame. Published photographs were of royalty of a different sort: boxing champion Ezzidine Hamdi, diva Om Kalthoum, and writer Albert Cossery.
Almost a century later, portrait photography in Egypt is no longer limited to the wealthy, yet some associations with prestige persist. “Local Star,” a solo exhibition by photographer Ahmed Kamel, currently showing at Mashrabia gallery, examines the historical links between photography and celebrity, as well as the increasing fetishization of self-image in mass culture. The aesthetics-poses, costumes, backgrounds-evoke the work from commercial photography studios in Cairo, a common visual which belies Kamel’s complicated message.
Since receiving his bachelor in fine arts in painting from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo in 2003, Kamel has been exploring visual forms of self-representation, focusing on the personal, “idealized identity.” “Images from the Parlor” defined families through their home interiors, “home being among the few spaces where people might express themselves freely, especially in big cities,” Kamel explains to Al-Masry Al-Youm. His investigation of social identities continued with the series “Dreamy Day.” In this work, Kamel examined the pomp of Cairene wedding parties by photographing the bride and groom as they posed for wedding photographers.
“Local Star,” is a selection of twenty portraits of aspiring actors. In 2009, Kamel rented a studio in downtown Cairo, an area famous for its large community of performing artists. He advertised an open call for subjects, specifying only that they should arrive to the studio dressed “in their most splendid attire.” Over seventy people came, some with several outfits. Once there, they filled out a questionnaire, highlighting their favorite local and foreign stars, movie genres and dream roles, as well as their preferred colors. The studio was set up like a rehearsal space, encouraging the participants to perform, but the details of each photo were unknown to the subject. Kamel shot the photographs against a plain gray background, only later would he digitally construct backgrounds based on information he had gathered from the subjects. By doing this, he aimed to create what he considered to be a dream poster for each actor.
“The photographs are meant to be movie posters rather than portraits,” Kamel tells Al-Masry Al-Youm. “They draw an analogy to the affectation common in the acting industry and hence are meant to emphasize the notion of a constructed image, of which the actor is an element.” At first glance, the theatricality of the posters is their most obvious feature. The artifice in the body language and fake backgrounds are highlighted rather than disguised.
One subject, nine-year-old Mariam, idealizes Egyptian cinematic icon Souad Hosni and contemporary actress May Ezz Eddin, according to her questionnaire. Mariam poses suggestively, dressed in a halter top and skirt, looking at the camera with an unsettling, confident smile. Kamel has emphasized the disturbing mood by creating a gloomy violet seascape as a background for Mariam’s image. Older female participants-aware of possible social stigma resulting from explicit representation of femininity in Egypt-are more subtle, feminine but playful.
Another subject, Mohamed Abdel Hamid, an actor in his twenties, impersonates a cowboy, both fierce and, through his facial expressions, humorous. Abdel Hamid’s poster might normally be seen as cliche, particularly considering the mountainous desert background, but the portrait-or poster-is effectively satirical, commenting on the genre it both emulates and satirizes.
Where posters fail to strike a satirical balance, they can seem to ridicule the participating actors, despite Kamel’s intention to create posters the actors can be proud of.
The photographs reflect both the aspirations of the subjects and Kamel’s interpretation of those dreams through his choice of backgrounds and composition. In the course of preparing the show, he reworked the backgrounds multiple times to match the characters. His interpretation is based on cinematic roles and celebrities informed by years of close study of art and mass media. The most successful photographs link the subject to their persona while still presenting the actors as real people.
Other factors contribute, perhaps unintentionally, to the alienating effect of the photographs. Most of the subjects never saw the final posters and so could not comment on the chosen background or composition. It’s unclear, too, to what degree the participants were familiar with the context of the exhibition; knowing that an element of mockery might be read into the final product, how many of them would have posed?
Is an eagerness to promote self-images potentially embarrassing or destructive, and at a time when this is widely available-made more so by social media-how much control does anyone have over how they are viewed? How is this obsession redefining celebrity in Egypt? These questions mean Kamel’s photography is about much more than just the popular aesthetic he imitates, although the answers remain largely unclear.
Local Star is exhibited at Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art from 19 September, 2010 until 14 October, 2010
8 Champollion Street, Downtown, Cairo. The gallery is open daily from 11 AM to 8 PM except on Fridays
Al-Masry Al-Youm – Newspaper
Ordinary lives turned into art
The laundry man is obviously ill at ease in front of the camera as he props his body against the…
Artellewa, the tiny art gallery right in the middle of Ard el-Lewa’s crowded dirt roads, is currently exhibiting photographer Ahmed Kamel’s latest work “Shop-abutting.”
Eighteen photographs are showcased in a row that runs along the walls of the gallery, simply hung on two discreet fishing lines. Each photograph depicts a man standing in front of his shop, be that a laundromat, a gym club, an accessories shop, a clothes shop or a repair shop for electronic appliances.
Ahmed Kamel photographed people from the area of Ard el-Lewa (a lower-middle-class district) walking to and fro on the neighborhood’s bustling streets to show what he considers to be “the most interesting shops, for their cluttered display windows or their bare aspect.”
“I’m fascinated with the way people organize their shops,” explains the photographer, who adds that “the people I wanted to photograph had many questions to ask before agreeing to pose in front of the camera, but most of them said yes.”
“I chose not to advise the people on how to pose,” he says, “as the magic is invariably broken if you do so. The fact that some of them appear shy, uneasy or confused is precisely the reason why the picture turns out to be interesting.”
The various poses that the characters adopt in each picture are somewhat representative of their profession.
For instance the gym teacher stands, his chest swelling, in front of a short red curtain partially hiding an abandoned dumbbell lying on the floor. The man’s body posture matches the way he is supposed to look, with bulging muscles and exposed veins, and this type of detail is of great interest to the artist who notices how “people will do whatever they can to appear as people expect them to.”
A young man, dressed in the latest fashion, poses in front of his modern perfume shop like a movie star. His shiny black hair is smoothly combed backwards while his green eyes look at the camera with an air of superiority and pride. “To me, this picture is one of the best,” says Kamel, since “the young man is mimicking the handsome European male model displayed in his shop window, with the same attitude and clothes.”
In another photograph, a man is sitting in a plastic chair in front of his shop, legs crossed elegantly, looking straight in front of him while plumes of smokes rise up from his half-consumed cigarette. Eissam, an Ard el-Lewa resident originally from Djibouti visiting the exhibition, is startled by “the proud expression on the man’s face… He looks like a pasha!”
Before entering Artellewa’s brightly lit premises though, Eissam had a moment of hesitation, thinking that “surely this place is not meant for people like us.” His remark is interesting, as the reason the gallery’s owner and visual artist Hamdy Reda opened the art space in Ard el-Lewa was to encourage a constant interrelation between the people of the area and art.
In a previous interview with Al-Masry-Al-Youm, Reda explained his ambition for the gallery: “I want the young generation to be acquainted with art from an early age, because thanks to their experience of seeing art on a daily basis they will be able to enjoy it fully as grown-ups.”
The older generation of Ard el-Lewa’s residents such as Eissam, after initial uncertainty, continue to step into the premises to have a quick glance at what’s on show.
An older man simply dressed in a beige jacket enters the gallery and goes directly to the picture of a carpenter proudly posing in front of his workshop with a hand firmly gripping a wooden board he’s cutting. “This is me in front of my workshop!” the visitor exclaims, spelling his name, Ibrahim el-Tayyar. “I am a carpenter, and I know all the other people posing in front of their shop,” he declares proudly.
A few minutes later an excited group of young boys tumble into the room, looking at the pictures and exclaiming “I know this guy, what is he doing in this photograph???” or, to the photographer, “How much did you pay them to pose for you?”–a question that instantly makes Kamel laugh. “I was not paid for doing these pictures, and the models were not paid either,” he tells them.
One kid with a joyful expression excitedly points at the many photographs, repeating “They are our friends, they are our friends!”
“If this exhibition facilitates the interrelation between art and the people living in this area it would be great, but I would not say it does,” the photographer says with a frown. “It will take time.”
Ahram Weekly – Newspaper
The house of mirrors
Depicting the human body has always been a central theme of art, and with rise of post-modern arts it has grown further in status.
In a sense, depicting the human body has become a means for making sense of the modern world. In his book, “The Body and Social Theory”, sociologist Chris Shilling poses interesting questions about the nature of the “living body” and how we can learn more about ourselves and our environment through our bodies. Questions such as these must have inspired Stafania Angarano, curator for the Mashrabia Gallery, to put together a show of variant displays of the human body by Egyptian artists. The exhibition was shown at the Samaakhana (Auditorium) located in the Khalifa district of Cairo.
According to Angarano, “attempts to ignore the body and reduce it are growing at such a rate so that one can say that it has turned the human body into mere material and robbed it of any intrinsic value. It has become hard for the aesthetic onlooker to see the body as a possible source of joy. In its artistic expression, the human body is reduced to a mere element of composition. The human body, meanwhile, has disappeared from public discourse. It is no longer a multifaceted subject and is rarely brought up except as a material for worry and suspicion. As social pressures escalate in current culture and as totalitarian ideas grow, the body stops being a property of its lawful owner and becomes a field in which many authorities exercise their actions and display their power..”
The fact that the human body has been distorted in public discourse did not stop Angarano from arranging an exhibition in which more than 20 artists provide disparate interpretations of the subject. Consequently, the “private body” shown in the exhibition is quite different from the social and economic context in which it has developed.
“Contemporary Egypt lives under the burden of an escalating population growth that has gone out of hand. In this country, human bodies are multiplying and become squeezed into crowded cities and homes. And yet the human body is diminishing as an inspiration for thinking and a measure for reality. This is quite ironic,” Angarano says.
In the 14 rooms of the Italian-Egyptian Centre for Restoration and Archaeology, the art works on display may be divergent in style and viewpoint, but they are complementary in their interpretation of the human body. As one walks from one collection to another, the exhibition acquires a pluralistic meaning quite in harmony with the post-modern view it offers.
Also of interest is Ahmed Kamel’s collection named “Pictures from a Virtual Society”. Commenting on the virtual societies created by online chatting and Facebook, Kamel says that, most of the time, the individuals shown in the pictures are aware of their situation, their clothes and their facial expressions. “When you think of downloading these pictures or viewing them, the private becomes public and these pictures become a subject for comment. Virtual societies allow the browser to see a large scope of diverse societies and notice how they interact in their own environment.”
A photographic show was projected on a wall in another corner of the exhibition. However, the characters displayed on the wall have been separated from their “real” backgrounds and appear against a neutral grey color that distorts the point of focus. Consequently, the images on the screen appear as if they are an iconic drawing on the wall. The artist uses such techniques to separate the viewer emotionally from the subject of the picture.
Egyptian Mail – Newspaper
A home from “The Home”
“You might think that it’s a furniture exhibition, because of all those home photos, but it isn’t. The details in each photo prove that it’s something different,” said Andrew Madqour, while attending
‘The Home’, a photographic exhibition by Ahmed Kamel recently.
The Home exhibition attracted the attention of anyone happening to walk past the French Culture Center in Cairo , where it runs till the end of that month, not only because of the colorful photos, but also the feeling of ‘intimate humanity’ they imparted.
“Homes are free spaces where people express themselves freely, especially in a crowded country like ours. I’ve tried with my exhibition to enter this very private area of people’s lives”, said Kamel, a 27 years old who graduated from the faculty of Fine Arts five years ago.
Since then he has been concerned with ‘people’s private stuff ‘, having worked on several collections with this theme. “I was mainly a painter, but recently I’ve been doing photography. I am mainly interested in domestic issues- people’s perception about themselves, their homes, clothes, wedding parties and so on.” The exhibition included 17 photographs, some of which were very warm, in addition to lots of private details that transport the audience from merely looking at photographs of rooms inside people’s homes in a gallery to actually seeing and imagining the life within these homes. “The photograph I liked the most was one of a small table with a lantern and a bottle of medicine on,” said Doreia, a visitor to the exhibition.
‘The Home’ contained many other photographs with wonderful details, about which Kamel commented,” I don’t interfere in the place I’m photographing. I don’t rearrange things. I just picture them as they really are.”
Kamel calls his role ‘documentation of reality’. He only chooses a suitable shot.
“Interferring in the details destroys the main purpose, revealing people’s private spaces. If I add my own details then my character, not theirs, will shine through,” he commented.
Homes are his first priority because they reflect their residents’ personalities. “Over time, people leave unique marks in their homes, making them different from others’ homes. By focusing on this, the visitor to exhibition can feel the attitudes, hopes and dreams of these people,” Kamel told the Mail.
The Home took Kamel some years to accomplish, not only because he was working on various projects simultaneously, but also because of a major problem he faced: “people were just saying ‘NO!’ A big clear ‘No’ was what I had from many of those I asked.”
He met with this pointblank refusal from his family and acquaintances, but this didn’t stop him.
“It didn’t shock me. It’s normal for people to refuse any intervention in their private lives. Even if they aren’t in the photos, it’s still their home. I had to ask hundreds of people in order to get these photos.”
Kamel, whose own home is included in this collection, is having to exert even more effort for his next collection, as it not only contains homes, but people as well.
“My new collection, ‘Suwar min El Salon’ (Images From The Parlour), features Egyptian families in their living rooms, simply showing how they gather together,” he said.
In this collection, Kamel tries to portray different standards and levels in Egyptian society. “Diversity is a must. I have interacted with lots of families to show how each of them act in their own private space.”
Kamel has traveled with his collections to a variety of places. However, he plans to tour some more countries in order to make a unique collection about families from all over the world. “I want to show the effect of cultural differences on normal people’s attitudes. It’s still a dream. Wish me all the best!” he said laughingly. This idea of the ‘private space’ of people’s lives obviously controls Kamel’s mind and directs his creativity, which is inspiring yet another project.
“I’m working on people’s lives in the new cities, on the outskirts of Cairo , via the external shape of the buildings,” Kamel explained enthusiastically.
Ahram Weekly – Newspaper
Sarah Carr is invited into the good living room
In Egypt, the curious relations between private life and the outside world is embodied by the parlour, whose function in Egyptian homes reflects all manner of paradoxes. Egyptian society is obsessed with social convention, status and appearances in the public domain; individuality rarely survives in the quest for cultural and moral homogeneity. And yet zealous efforts are exerted to ensure that certain aspects of life in the private domain remain safely cloistered at home, sheltered from the merciless gaze of the collective Other. The parlour, or “good living room”, is the threshold between these two worlds: a tidy, edited, Sunday-best glimpse of the forbidden inner sanctum, with all the scandals — unveiled daughters and unmade beds contained therein.
It is telling that in Western society, where public and private increasingly overlap, there remain few homes in which this room exists, guests and strangers gaining direct admittance into the living room and beyond. And yet here in Egypt, even the tiniest of homes will sacrifice a bedroom in order to be able admit the outside world on their own terms. Photographer Ahmed Kamel enters these rooms in his exhibition Images from the Parlour, currently showing under the heading Cartography at the Contemporary Image Collective.
Kamel’s photographs show Cairene families posed in this space between two worlds, couples and children framed by the near-intimacy of their parlours, with the décor and furnishings providing tiny clues to their lives. The family album mood of the images is belied by the families themselves: the women are veiled, indicating an awareness that these images will be viewed by the outside world, and the awkward demeanour of many of the adults could only have been born out of the acute, often uncomfortable, self-awareness characteristic of posed photographs. Think: passport photos. The children, immune from this malaise, temper the overriding sobriety with an unembarrassed exuberance, here smiling, there saluting for the camera.
The walls of these parlours meanwhile speak of emotions which the grownups would never allow themselves to articulate publicly: one dour couple sits rigidly staring at the camera, the husband’s arm placed stiffly on his wife’s shoulders. Above them are two framed photographs, one of a matronly, stern- looking figure in black, another of the couple themselves on their wedding day, facing each other but looking at the camera — he with his arms round her waist, she with hers round his shoulders. It is a highly contrived pose, the couple again unsmiling, and something about the newlyweds’ expression as they stare down at themselves seems to be saying, “I told you so.” In other images it is the décor itself that constitutes the narratives. The impossibly garish paradise garden scene covering the wall of one room creates a bedlam of colour which almost eclipses the couple and their five children sitting in its midst and which might be interpreted as an attempt to create a utopia that remains missing in their own lives. In other images it is the minimalist, almost characterless, appearance of the rooms that strikes the viewer: a rejection of the kitsch extravagance of fake Louis XV furnishing so beloved of Egyptian soap opera makers, and perhaps a public declaration of belonging (or aspiring) to a better, more refined, class.
In Images from the Parlour, it is the setting of these images and more specifically the juxtaposition of their anonymous subjects against the often vibrant backgrounds which makes them so compelling. Viewed as a set the pictures are aesthetically striking, and there is something of a pop art quality to the repeated motif of the taxi in its many two-tone variations.
Overall Cartography is an excellent exhibition which presents a fascinating glimpse of these public and private spaces.
Daily Star – Newspaper
Snapshots of modern Egyptian life
The subject of Kamel’s “Images from the Parlour” is Egyptian family life. His portraits of middle class Egyptian families from across Cairo are a glimpse into the private lives of the families photographed.
The subjects are obviously posing, but the differing demeanors, ranging from stiff postures and serious expressions, to nine people squeezed onto a small couch trying to contain their laughter, lend the collection a human feel.
It is more photo-documentary than family portrait.
Taken in living rooms, the varying furniture and interior design styles say much about the identity of each family.
It is interesting, for example, to contrast the French gilt classic living room of the army general and his family with the simpler, modern layout of the young father in jeans and trainers, pictured with his wife and baby.
Photos, paintings, works of art all offer clues as to who these people are, and the detective work is half the fun.
Yet that is as far as the collection goes. As a whole, you feel, it begs for more detail about the lives of the people on display or even, at least, more than just the eight prints of which it is composed. It feels like this is part of a greater project not yet realized and in that way, it is limited.
The Daily News Egypt – Newspaper
In the eye of the beholder
Farah El Alfy
My favorites are the pieces by Ahmed Kamel. His small photographs capture pictures already taken and on display in someone’s living room. The pictures are kitschy — in local lingo, baladi.
Bright green walls, detailed carpets and old posters make for colorful photographs that have a vintage feel, mainly because they are recapturing older pictures.
A particularly captivating photo — also by Kamel — is a portrait of an Egyptian middle class family. The grandparents are wearing typical galabbiyas. The mother and father are dressed in more modern shirts and pants, probably both government employees. The oldest daughter has highlights in her hair and the little son is giving a military-style ta’zeem salam (salute). In the background is a colorful poster and the family stands on a colorful, intricately woven carpet.
The photograph, the construct, the self
The photographic image is the object itself, the object freed from the conditions of time and space that govern it. No matter how fuzzy, distorted, or discoloured, no matter how lacking in documentary value the image may be, it shares, by virtue of the process of its becoming, the being of the model of which it is the reproduction, it is the model.
From “the Antology of the Photographic Image” 1945
In “The photograph, the construct, the self”, Ahmed Kamel pursues his interest in domestic spaces and their wealth of small traces. He brings to his photography the concerns for detail of the painter that he originally is, delicately extracting feeling out of the inanimate and the mundane. His large-scale interior landscapes distil the domestic experience to its essence of warmth and tranquility. His sparse minimal compositions pay tribute to the home as refuge and sanctuary, provider of security and reinforcer of identity. His heightened awareness of the interplay between light and texture imbue his mundane objects with an air of life. They become personable. They can almost talk. And if they could, what would they tell of?