Bassem Allam

“I forced myself to take a picture everyday and edit it on the same day for a year”

He didn’t know that playing with his dad’s old Canon AE-1 camera would turn his interest in photography into pure addiction, and get his work into the Italian Vogue. We talked with the photographer who thinks that turning a hobby into something academic “kills the passion” and learned some interesting views on photography and more.


You’re an architect, a photographer and a guitarist how do you think this blend of interests poured into your photography?

I think the three are very strongly connected. They are all forms of art and each one plays a role in inspiring and directing my work. I learned the rules of the visual ratios and design from architecture; this helped me a lot with composing my pictures and directing my shoots. Music is where I find peace of mind, I find inspiration when I compose songs or write lyrics and sometimes I build my photography concepts on the songs I write. 


How do you evaluate the photography scene in Egypt?

I think that the photography scene in Egypt is underappreciated. Photography is not recognized as a form of art by the publicopinion and most people don’t understand it. There are a lot of great photographers in Egypt who deserve more attention and support. I am very optimistic about the future of photography in Egypt, judging from the attention it started getting in the last few years I think the scene will become much bigger.”


Tell us more about your 365 days challenge?

I started this project where I forced myself to take a picture everyday and edit it on the same day for a year. I am a perfectionist and extremely indecisive, so it used to take me days to work on one picture. I figured this was a good way to go further and fix my problem.


Where does your inspiration come from?

My mind is very restless;I’m constantly making up concepts or trying to put the things I see in pictures. I can build up a concept on something as simple as an interesting color in a garden or even words from the lyrics of a song I like. So my inspiration comes from everything beautiful around me.


Tell us about your feelings the first time you opened the Italian Vogue and found your pictures?

Well, this came after a lot of rejection, I found out about the chance of being published in the magazine a few months ago, ever since I’ve been doing my best with each picture I take, in order to achieve that. It was unbelievable, I feel very much underappreciated with my photography in general, and to know that such a great magazine has featured me is enough to keep me going and motivate me to do better.


You have a lot of challenging photos like “A point of time” or “Squaring the triangle”, how were you able to create them?

It’s very complicated to try and explain how I created them. Both came after a lot of trial and error. ‘A point of time’ was my first levitation photography trial; you simply take two pictures, one of the empty scene and another of your concept and combine them together. I had three assistants on the set, one to hold the girl’s legs, and two to throw the branches and leaves in the background. ‘Squaring the triangle’ was more challenging for many reasons; it’s a self-portrait where I had to put my head in a fish tank with all the watercolors. I had color stains on my face for a day after. Worth mentioning is that, I didn’t use Photoshop to manipulate the picture, I only added minor color corrections in the post processing.  


What are the major obstacles that usually face a photographer in Egypt? Is it different elsewhere?

I cannot generalize what obstacles photographers face in Egypt, but I will talk about my personal experience with thatmatter. I think photographers face great difficulties with their work and on the streets of Egypt; people are simply not used to photography and fear it for some reason. I find that very unfortunate and I really hope this would change in the near future. The obstacles vary from one place to another. But in general, from my experience, people are more open and considerate about photography abroad and you face less, almost no obstacles with your photo shoots. 


Do you believe in the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words”?

Absolutely, I believe a good picture has the ability to touch the viewer, wake emotions inside of them, tell them a story and leave them dazzled without saying a single word. It’s the intensity of the picture that speaks, not the words that describeit.


Where did the idea of “Your Prince Harming” album cover come from? And don’t you think the cover was a little bizarre?

The idea came around the time when I was doing my ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ project. It was my first experiment with this type of photography, I was inspired by the irony in the band’s name; I am aware that the picture might not appeal to some people. But I wanted the picture to have a very strong, shocking impact on the viewer, one that will leave an instant, memorable impression. I think the picture succeeded in doing that.


Photography sometimes objectifies women, what do you think women symbolize in general?
Women symbolize life; we are all here in this world thanks to our mothers and this is why we should treat each woman with kindness and respect. I am strongly against using women in any negative way in photography. I believe that every person is beautiful in their own way.Photography gives you the ability to show that special beauty, and portrait it through pictures. It’s a shame some people abuse it.

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