Approaching a year together as a group, the members of Everyday Cairo, a collective of photographers who post their pictures of the city daily on Instagram and Facebook, spoke to Ahram Online as they prepared for the first ever offline exhibition of the group's work which is taking place in Zamalek this week.
The team behind Everyday Cairo – who now have around 13,000 followers on Instagram – are mostly photojournalists at Cairo-based newspapers, as well as a handful of freelancers who use the group’s hashtag to post photos from the city's streets and events. Some members and contributors are locals, and some are non-Egyptians.
Heba ElKholy, who is part of the original team, told Ahram Online that founding member Mattias Pruyum, who is from Belgium and is no longer in Cairo, wanted to show the unique side of Egypt’s capital, away from the usual political, or touristic, associations.
ElKholy explained that Everyday Cairo is similar to other Instagram groups such as Everyday Everywhere, Everyday Middle East or Everyday Egypt.
Since the core team lives in different parts of Cairo, they believe they can show a diverse set of views on the city.
At the same time, as photojournalists working for the local media, they wanted to steer away from the topics that they cover in their professional lives.
“We try to avoid politics, since we have this already covered in the news pages. We love to show daily life. We try to be different,” ElKholy comments.
One of the members, Gehad, said that the group gets countless comments from people saying that they want to come and live in Cairo after seeing their pictures.
At present there are 11 people in the core team, but they act individually when choosing which photo to post on the group.
“It’s very hard to take 11 people’s advice or point of view so when we have a photo and we think it is good, we re-post it. Sometimes we talk about what we like, but at other times one of us would re-post something on his or her own,” said Gehad.
However, the core team stays in close contact, meeting on a weekly basis to discuss their direction or any issues that have come up.
Last week, the team was particularly busy – and somewhat frantic – choosing the photos to show at the Zamalek exhibition, which opened on Thursday and will close on Friday 23 October.
The task of selecting the 150 pictures to be displayed at the Shelter Art + Photography Centre at the Yamama Centre was a daunting one, given that the Instagram group has over a thousand photos.
“We chose our very best photos out of 900," Gehad said. "We look at them and collectively vote ‘in or out’.”
The point of Everyday Cairo, and the other daily Instagram “everyday" groups from other locations – is to have an instantaneous audience, but the group explained that they saw advantages from displaying their work outside the digital space, in a gallery.
“I think in our first meeting we gathered to discuss what we are going to do to make it bigger,” Gehad said.
“We discussed the idea of putting them in a gallery. Not all the people in Cairo have an Instagram account, hence the exhibition will be yet another platform to showcase those works. Since it’s held in the Yamama commercial centre, we expect to have an audience from a variety of backgrounds.”
The team had to invest in high quality prints of the pictures, and all the photos on display will be for sale in order to recoup those costs. On their Facebook page, the group also offered thanks for support extended by the Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) in Cairo.
The team clearly sees a future together and say that are hoping to find a sponsor so that they can start a real website. As they are mostly professional photographers, they are optimistic about eventually finding sponsorship.
In a city of many photographers, it is difficult to make an image stand out. The group gave their reasons why Everyday Cairo is unique.
Shayma, a Sudanese dentist who also collaborates with Everyday Cairo and takes pictures exclusively on her iPhone, explained that not being a photographer and not even being from Cairo can sometimes give you the edge because you see the city from a different perspective.
She added that “people like to see some of the events that are unique to Cairo, like the Moulid or the Sufi events.”
David A. Cordova, a Mexican freelance journalist, who is no longer in Cairo but has some of his photos on display in the exhibition, explains that Cairo in particular is “a city that of multiple facets – this due to its history and geographic position. Those facets can be explored through beautiful images.”
The Everyday Cairo project, along with other "everyday" projects, "show thousands of viewers how visual stereotypes can be transcended by posting daily life images,” he said.
“All it takes is to have a smart phone with a camera, an Instagram account and to be able to use a hashtag (#everydaycairo), no matter what your social status, no matter where you live, or which is your religion. Diversity makes it even more beautiful,” Cordova said.
“Combine that with a dedicated team of photographers and editors and you have a successful account that now has over 13,000 followers.”
Heba ElKholy agrees that the group's success lies in its diversity and unique perspective.
“Everyone has seen photos of the pyramids. We know this is Cairo. Now, I think, people would like to see the man in the street.”
The exhibition kicked off on 15 October and runs until October 23
The Shelter Art + Photography, at Yamama Centre, Zamalek
Opening hours: 4pm to 10pm
The photographers behind the Everyday Cairo Instagram group choosing photos to display in their one year anniversary exhibition
The photographers behind the Everyday Cairo Instagram group in downtown preparing for their one year anniversary exhibition
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