When Hussein Shaaban erupted on the scene in 2006, he quickly established himself as the young go-to man for edgy images. Stunning black-and-white portraits soon appeared in different publications around Cairo.
Shaaban seemed to be able to capture the essence of his subjects, showing sides of celebrities seldom seen before. “Every good portrait photographer knows how to build a rapport with his subject within a few minutes,” Shaaban explains, “but we all have a different style in how we shoot. I love to work in black and white; it allows me to capture their personalities in shades of grey and light.”
When Shaaban co-founded Ego Magazine in 2006 he had a perfect platform to try out his daring ideas and his imagery hit Cairo like a storm. Unknown models posing in high fashion on the streets of Cairo and edgy compositions all contributed to build his reputation as a photographer with a vision.
These days Shaaban struggles to keep the balance between artistic integrity and full on commercialism “the revolution in Egypt does not seem to apply to the concepts used in advertisement; we seem to have gone back in time if anything. Budgets have decreased since business is bad and art directors are less inclined to try different concepts. It disheartens me at times that they only want the tried and tested,” Shaaban says.
A few years ago Shaaban accepted an assignment from the British Council to take portraits of children with special needs. It took time to find a school that would allow him and his camera in the door, Shaaban’s angle to photograph the kids like he would anyone else convinced them he would portray them with dignity. The resulting photoseries did a lot more than just that, Shaaban managed to capture their essence and the portraits are empathetic, moving and full of joy.
Shaaban holds degrees in marketing and film directing and has directed and shot several short films,
documentaries and music videos. “I don’t only direct when I work on these projects; I develop the concept, the story line and often shoot it myself.The limited funding that is available these days usually means I end up doing the jobs of several people.” It makes for hard work but the flipside is Shaaban gets to follow his own artistic vision.
The image Shaaban contributed to our View of Egypt series is part of one of his long term projects: the uncanny ability of kids having fun, no matter what their circumstances are. “I love the joy kids generate when they are having fun and I like how an image can evoke that feeling in anyone who sees it. In a way Egyptians never really loose that ability, no matter how dire our situation may be. We always find a way to laugh, to find the fun in a situation.”