Photographer Bassam Al-Zoghby’s fourth solo exhibition “A multifaceted woman” closed last week at the Al-Bab Gallery on the Opera House grounds.
The artist’s 2016 exhibition, held at the Saad Zagloul Museum, dealt with the theme of loneliness. It included only eight pictures printed on canvas, all featuring a lonely figure with heavy black spots around. “You don’t necessarily feel lonely just because you are alone. You could feel lonely because other people do not understand you, or when there is a communication problem between you and your community,” Al-Zoghby commented.
Working for Al-Ahram, Al-Zoghby, a professional theater and opera photographer, is concerned with the theme of movement in almost all his exhibitions. In 2016 he acquired a small studio, which enabled him to work more freely away from the restrictions of the auditorium. That is when he began to explore the theme of the human face, which had intrigued him for a long time.
“With the help of some volunteer woman models, I started taking pictures using double exposure and multiple shutter speed techniques. I started working in 2017, having in mind the thousands of faces with which I’d interacted through my life. I figured out that people with harsh features could turn out to be very light-hearted...”
This time there are 34 pictures on show, printed as photo blocks on paper, and except for a few of them made in black and white. One representative piece consists of nine small squares showing nine different faces organised in such a way that each leads to the next and back again, cyclically. “Motion obsessed me for years, but I don’t feel I have anything more to add there.”
These new pieces, ranging from expressionist to abstract and often mixing the two approaches in the same image to powerful effect. In one picture a woman in an attitude supplication appears to have multiple arms, evoking a fountain or flower.
Last year at Al-Hanager Gallery, Al-Zoghby showed a retrospective spanning 25 years. This year he turns 50: “I am looking forward to a new, enlightening source inspiration. As for future projects, I have nothing in mind – not yet. For now I just need to rest.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 February, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.