Imagining the one picture that adequately captures the month of Ramadan is difficult. Do images of religion, culture or food capture the holy month?
The newly formed Society for Photojournalism founded by Amr Nabil asked newcomers to the field that exact same question, encouraging them to take part in a competition for the best picture reflecting the holy month in Egypt.
“The characteristics of Ramadan in the Muslim world have a different and specific picture for each of these countries, explains photojournalist Rashad El Koussy, “In Egypt, one of these characteristics is the fanous, the mosques being covered in colorful light bulbs from the outside, or eating atayif and konafa for iftar. All these are unique to Egypt and make it stand out from the rest of the Islamic world.
Many contestants took part, sending in a variety of images ranging from whirling dervishes, foul being served from big metal pots, a man eating at a ma idit rahman (charity tables set up on pavements during the month of Ramadan), Khan El Khalili’s narrow and cluttered alleyways, oriental desserts being made and, of course, a lot of fawanees.
There was also a lot of religious content including images of people reading the Quran in the middle of their busy day.
Another image captures a police officer in the middle of the street – quite a familiar scene in Cairo during Ramadan’s rush hour traffic.
Farouk Ibrahim, a photojournalist from Akhbar Al-Youm and one of the judges in the competition says, “I was surprised how well these kids take pictures. Digital photography has really helped the field of photography. During the 50s, there were 10 photojournalists; today there are 1,000 because of the simplicity of the digital world.
The committee chose 10 photographers to honor, including the three winners who received prizes. The seven rewarded equally were Mohamed Hanafi, Osama Menasi’, Midhat Abdel Megiud, Abdelhamid Eid, Mohamed Adel, Hossam Fadl and Hesham Abdu.
Ahmed Abdel Razek came in third place with a picture of madfa’ el iftar, traditionally a cannon whose blast signals the end of the day’s fast. The two men standing around the cannon are silhouettes, with only a dim light coming from the sparks of the blast.
Second place went to Amr Abdulla for his picture of an old man praying in a mosque with a single thread of sunlight peaking through, shinning only on him and creating a saintly aura.
“I was praying in Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque and I saw the light coming in. It’s just a moment you have to catch, explains Abdulla, a full-time photojournalist with Al-Masry Al-Youm and a freelancer with Reuters.
The top prize was awarded to Khaled El-Fikki for his representation of a mesaharati – a staple Ramadan tradition – a man who walks through the streets of his neighbourhood, banging his tabla (drum) to wake people up for their sohour meal.
In the picture, the mesaharati stands in the center of a narrow ally in a rural area of Cairo. He is holding a blue tabla and his mouth is wide open as he calls out to people, often by name. The chubby man wears a bright red head scarf. Above his head hangs a colorful fanous.
Unfortunately El-Fikki was in China on an assignment and was not there to accept the prize. His four-year-old daughter Aya accepted it on his behalf. “I expected my father to win. He takes lots of pictures, and they are nice. I am happy for him, the shy girl told Daily News Egypt.
This is the first national photojournalism competition. The recently launched society aims to recognize photojournalism in Egypt.
“Today I open a publication and find a picture I had taken of former president Anwar Sadat. I do not get paid for these pictures being reprinted, nor do I get a photo credit, although it’s my right. We hope, through this society, to safeguard the rights of the new generation, said Farouk Ibrahim.
Second place winner Abdulla said that one of the aims of the society is to show that photojournalism is a prominent and influential field, “In Egypt the word photographer is not considered prestigious but we are trying to explain that it has a lot of impact, importance and status.
For more information on the Society for Photojournalism, see http://www.egypt-photojournalism.com/