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As we wrap up our second annual PhotoCairo event, we begin to take stock of strengths and weaknesses, vis-à-vis both last year’s inaugural PhotoCairo, as well as the standards and goals we had set for ourselves as organizers at the outset of this experiment in the arts.
Last year’s point of departure for PhotoCairo in its first year was the democratic nature of the camera, its accessibility and the ubiquity of photographs surrounding us. That said, PhotoCairo was designed in such a manner as to penetrate the most diverse audience — from the standard art-going audience, to persons from the margins who may have been pulled in because of some aspect of photography’s far reaching relevance, and particularly, familiarity. It is because of that latter phenomenon in particular that we recognize the potential power of an event dedicated to photography, as the reproducible image’s relevance in the world around us – whether as art, or rather disguised as television or advertisements, is paramount.
In the end, PhotoCairo 2003 attracted diverse crowds, from the neighborhood car mechanics who wandered into a hollowed garage space to see Hassan Khan’s "tabla dubb", to distinguished members of the cinema realm who attended the panel discussion surrounding questions related to Egyptian visual culture. There was nothing homogenous or predictable about this year’s audiences, as they continually eschewed facile characterizations.
By initiating a series of practical workshops drawing upon the resources of the local photographic community, we hoped to translate the often-lofty rhetoric surrounding the accessibility of photography into a reality by placing agency in the hands of photographers of all abilities, from itinerant amateurs to working photojournalists. We have proposed to create a space for original expression, potentially eliminating some of the prevailing taboos and misconceptions surrounding the camera in Egypt at large, and enriching the process of creating diverse visual histories.
Importantly, the workshop program in its first year served as a valuable precedent, and was a noticeable success. The sheer numbers of individuals interested in taking part in the program was overwhelming and in the end, we could not accommodate everyone. We now intend to create a dialogue with interested members of the photographic community as to how to create a sustainable structure for workshops of this kind for the year to come.
And this is just the beginning. Importantly, we will continue to rely on community feedback in our approach, hoping to build upon the momentum born of PhotoCairo in its two first years in fashioning a lasting regional initiative in the arts.
Negar Azimi, Hala Elkoussy and William Wells
14 December 2003 -
7 January 2004
Director: William Wells
Curator of Programs:
Hala El Koussy
Rehab El Sadek