Ilan Wittenberg is delighted to invite members of Beth Shalom to his new exhibition: Faces of Cairo which opens on May 5 at Studio One Toi Tū. Click here to watch his amazing clip!
Faces of Cairo takes you on a tour of the land and its people, the streets, the markets, the African desert, and the path of history.
Cairo is chaos at its most magnificent, infuriating, and beautiful. From above, the distorted roar of the muezzins’ call to prayer, echoes-out from duelling minarets. Below, car horns bellow tuneless symphonies amid avenues of faded Nineteenth-century grandeur, while donkey carts rattle down dusty lanes, lined with colossal monuments. Cairo’s constant buzz is a product of its 30 million inhabitants, simultaneously stretching its infrastructure, crushing it under their collective weight. The smog is heavy, and car-toots are overwhelming, but its energy is stimulating and exhilarating!
In January 2020, I was privileged to visit the ancient city to tell the story of its people. What stood-out to me the most was how friendly people were. I first shook their hands warmly and then asked in Arabic: “Mumken Sura? Can I take your photo?” I gave people my full attention and most were delighted to have their portrait taken, especially once they learned that I come from Israel. I then showed them the image on the back of my camera which made them feel honoured and respected.
I consider it a real privilege to be able to share these glimpses into their lives. I wanted to visit Cairo for a long time and was delighted when the opportunity came. I always admired the long and rich history of Egypt and found the experience of modern-day Cairo to be incredible in its own right. The whole city buzzes with all kinds of different people. Despite the daily grind and the economic hardship, they all share a wonderful faith in a better future.
This is a documentary collection. Most of the photos had little or no retouching. I asked people to look straight into my camera, so these are not candid photos. The strength of this series is in giving viewers a rare opportunity to connect with the common Egyptian people in their natural environment. This diverse group of individuals serves as a timely reminder that, despite our many cultural differences, we can unite through the power of photography.
The work is a celebration of our shared values: hard work, the importance of family and caring for each other as a community. I hope that through this portfolio viewers learn more about the Egyptian people. In sharing this series, I encourage viewers to show empathy: to accept others and to recognise the value of cultural diversity. We would all experience an enhanced sense of humanity if we took the time to appreciate interactions which allow us to discover the world beyond our familiar boundaries. We are all wonderfully unique, yet, at the same time, we are remarkably similar.
I present these photographs in timeless monochrome, to ensure consistency and flow amidst the chaos and clutter of the busy environment. My aim is to create an authentic portfolio of diverse individuals in a foreign land. My goal is to tell their stories using a clear narrative style and enduring quality. The photos are crisp and sharp, to allow the details to inspire your imagination and to evoke emotions. I hope that you will experience the special atmosphere and connect with the people.
Where: Studio One Toi Tū, 1 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland
When: May 5 – June 3, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Saturdays 10am-4pm
Opening Event: Wednesday 5-May, 5-9PM
Artist Talk: Saturday 15 May, 11am
Portraiture Workshop: Saturday 15 May, 1PM