Hana Gamal is an Egyptian photographer and visual artist. She has talent, she has passion and purpose. L’Eclectique loves her perspective in the midst of the amazing different facets of her country. Discover her interview, she will reinforce your desire to pursue what makes you feel alive.
I loved to silently observe rather than talk, and was always intrigued by human behavior and found solace in being a silent observer.
Can you present yourself, your background; how and when did you start photography?
I don’t really know how to answer this, perhaps because I’m still trying to know myself. But I will try to be as real and honest as possible. I was born and raised in Cairo. Growing up, I was always the shy and quiet child, teenager; or as my mother describes me “living in my own world”. I loved to silently observe rather than talk, and was always intrigued by human behavior and found solace in being a silent observer. My curiosity and fascination of the human mind, behavior and emotions have led me to want to dig deeper and understand people; I studied Psychology and Mass Communication & Media Arts at the American University in Cairo. The original plan was to finish my undergraduate degree and do my masters in art therapy, and become an art therapist, but all my plans changed in 2011.
It was the January 25 revolution that ignited my passion for photography. During the eighteen days of the revolution, I was overwhelmed by an indescribable feeling; the energy, the emotions, the rage that could only be understood and felt by the people who were there. Deep down inside of me I knew that a big change is about to happen in Egypt. I was witnessing history being made in front of my eyes, and wanted to document what was happening and in a way keep this memory with me forever; I started taking pictures with my phone camera, and since then, photography became my voice in this very mad world, and greatest passion in life.
I always found myself drawn to street photography. For me, it is poetry in its most honest and raw form; and it combined all my interests together, psychology, poetry, and visual art.
I personally believe that any artist is and always will be a work in progress; constantly learning, growing, developing, and evolving – a never ending process. An artist is never finished.
Through my studies and various experiences during my undergraduate degree, I experimented with different types of photography but I always found myself drawn to street photography. For me, it is poetry in its most honest and raw form; and it combined all my interests together, psychology, poetry, and visual art. I have to admit that psychology has helped me grow as a person and photographer who mostly deal with people; acceptance, empathy, patience, the ability to contain the other, and being non judgmental are all essential characteristics to be a good therapist, and above all, a human. We’re all struggling, and we are all part of each other.
However, I don’t like to label myself as a “street photographer, documentary photography etc.”or limit myself and my imagination, because photography to me is a form of self expression and that is dependent on my mental and emotional state, which is fluid and constantly changing. Now it’s street/documentary photography, maybe later that changes. I personally believe that any artist is and always will be a work in progress; constantly learning, growing, developing, and evolving – a never ending process. An artist is never finished.
It’s therapeutic, a way for me to release and express my emotions. It soothes my soul, and helps me understand and rediscover myself and the world around me. Heal and grow.
What do you love the most in photography?
That’s a hard and loaded question because I don’t just love photography or love something in particular about photography – photography is my life, it is a part of who I am. A passion and a calling. A testament of everything I’ve felt and witnessed.
Before photography, I had no way to express myself; being a deeply emotional and sensitive person I would curb all my feelings and keep everything inside. But photography gave me a voice and a language to express myself. It’s where I try to find answers to my endless inquisitions, or at least understand. Where I lose and find myself. It’s therapeutic, a way for me to release and express my emotions. It soothes my soul, and helps me understand and rediscover myself and the world around me. Heal and grow.
In few words, what would be your art statement?
My artwork is the journey of my soul, driven by a desire to connect and an equally strong desire to withdraw.
Are you currently working on a particular series?
The most important project I’m currently working on and also very close to my heart is about Egyptian rural women who work in agriculture; which hopefully will come out as a book. Egyptian women inspire me in so many ways and they are a huge part of my work.
For the past two years I have been seeking solace in exploring rural life in different cities around Egypt; and what fascinated me the most were those women. Their beauty, their strength, their vulnerability, their stories, everything about them. I felt a deep connection with them, on so many levels; and the need to share their stories and shed light on their significant role in the society which often go unnoticed. These girls and women are the backbone of agriculture in Egypt, and they have always been and always will be the beautiful face of Egypt that will never fade nor die.
When you are following your passion, you will be led by an unstoppable force.
Can you tell us some words about being a woman photographer in Egypt?
Well as a woman, roaming the streets, and sometimes going into the unknown, alone, and with a camera – it is nowhere near easy; yes, I am often faced with many challenges but that’s also part of its beauty. When you are following your passion, you will be led by an unstoppable force. You won’t even question, you will be magnetized by it. That indescribable feeling of comfort and freedom I get when I’m making photographs, makes it all worthwhile.
What’s your favorite artist? Book? And inspiring quote?
I have a lot! but I can say that my favorite artist these days is Roger Ballen. He’s one of my biggest inspirations and I have recently met him in person, which made me fall in love with his art even more. He is a true artist and human.
My Favorite book is: “On the road by Jack Kerouac.”
My favorite quote is: “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
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