On the premises of the Cairo Opera House, in an exhibit dedicated to the Egyptian Surrealist movement titled When Art Becomes Liberty lies a unique exhibition of The Van Leo self-portraits.
Van-Leo (1920-2002) ran a photography studio in Cairo during World War II. As a portraitist, his lens captured Egyptian divas of the time. Movie stars and high profile personalities often walked into his studio for a unique portrait. However, this self-portrait exhibition reveals a lot about the talented photographer behind the lens and how he perceived himself.
The photographs reveal a great deal of experimental editing at a time when hand-paint coloring was still in use, lots of toying with shades and light, and great wit.
Not a surrealist per se, but definitely a liberal artist that acted out his passion. The set of photographs exhibited on the wall, in the same layout of the magazine where they were originally printed, is a great example. His ability to capture the essence of the different characters he represents in these photos is quite impressive. He is neither mimicking nor judging, he is simply pausing and representing such characters as would have starred in the movies, or led ordinary lives in that era.
This exhibition is a great tribute to the man whose mere name takes you places.
All Photos are courtesy of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library, at the American University In Cairo
The exhibition runs until the end of October.