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April 11, 2011

BagNewsSalon: Assignment Egypt

The most recent BagNews Salon, held on March 20th in collaboration with Open-i, brought together photographers and visual academics to analyze photos of Egypt’s 18-day revolution. Watch the full archive or read salient quotes from the conversation below.

Open-i

Slideshow

<strong>photo:</strong> David Degner  /  Wall Street. <strong>caption: </strong> A woman standing through the moon roof of a car in Alexandria help up a flag.
photo: David Degner / Wall Street. caption: A woman standing through the moon roof of a car in Alexandria help up a flag.
<strong>photo:</strong> Laura El-Tantawy / Burn Magazine. <strong>caption: </strong> Egyptian anti-government protesters sleep on the tires of a military tank stationed on Tahrir (Liberation) Square.
photo: Laura El-Tantawy / Burn Magazine. caption: Egyptian anti-government protesters sleep on the tires of a military tank stationed on Tahrir (Liberation) Square.
<strong>photo:</strong> Ed Ou / The New York Times. <strong>caption: </strong> Demonstrators crammed into Tahrir Square to reject anything less than the president’s immediate ouster.
photo: Ed Ou / The New York Times. caption: Demonstrators crammed into Tahrir Square to reject anything less than the president’s immediate ouster.
<strong>photo:</strong> Nevil Zaki / Twitter. <strong>caption: </strong> Christians faced outward and joined hands in a circle to protect a Muslim group of protesters as they prayed in Egypt.
photo: Nevil Zaki / Twitter. caption: Christians faced outward and joined hands in a circle to protect a Muslim group of protesters as they prayed in Egypt.
<strong>photo:</strong> Tara Todras-Whitehill / Associated Press. <strong>caption: </strong> Anti-government protesters take pictures of protest art in Tahrir Square, the center of anti-government demonstrations, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011.
photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill / Associated Press. caption: Anti-government protesters take pictures of protest art in Tahrir Square, the center of anti-government demonstrations, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011.
<strong>photo:</strong> Tara Todras-Whitehill / Associated Press. <strong>caption: </strong> Government protesters pray atop an Egyptian tank during traditional Friday prayers.
photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill / Associated Press. caption: Government protesters pray atop an Egyptian tank during traditional Friday prayers.
<strong>photo:</strong> CBS. <strong>caption: </strong> Lara Logan, the CBS news correspondent, in Tahrir Square in Cairo moments before she was assaulted.
photo: CBS. caption: Lara Logan, the CBS news correspondent, in Tahrir Square in Cairo moments before she was assaulted.
<strong>photo:</strong> Chris Hondros / Getty Images. <strong>caption: </strong> A supporter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rides a camel through the melee during a clash between pro-Mubarak and anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square on Feb. 2, in Cairo, Egypt.
photo: Chris Hondros / Getty Images. caption: A supporter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rides a camel through the melee during a clash between pro-Mubarak and anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square on Feb. 2, in Cairo, Egypt.
<strong>photo:</strong> Ed Ou / New York Times. <strong>caption: </strong> Young protesters have turned a downtown Cairo apartment into a secret hiding place, recharging after long days of protest and uploading homemade documentaries about Tahrir Square to a shared Facebook page.
photo: Ed Ou / New York Times. caption: Young protesters have turned a downtown Cairo apartment into a secret hiding place, recharging after long days of protest and uploading homemade documentaries about Tahrir Square to a shared Facebook page.

  • Panelists
  • Michael Shaw Host, Publisher, BagNewsNotes.
  • Nathan Stormer Moderator, Professor of Communications and Journalism/U. of Maine; Salon producer.
  • Paul Lowe Course Director of MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, London College of Communications and Open-i Editor.
  • David Degnerphotographer, Cairo.
  • Laura El-Tantawyphotographer, London and Cairo.
  • David Campbell Lecturer, Researcher, Producer, Multimedia and Photojournalism.
  • Michelle WoodwardPhoto Editor, Middle East Report.
  • Loret Steinberg Professor of Photojournalism and Documentary Photography/R.I.T.

Co-Produced for BagNews by Ida Benedetto

Images and Selected Quotes:


(photo: David Degner / Wall Street. caption: A woman standing through the moon roof of a car in Alexandria help up a flag.)

David: This image fits the western liberal mindset of what they want the revolution to be. It’s a non-threatening female joyous with the wind of freedom blowing through her hair. It takes away the complexity of the other darker celebration photos of young men shooting fire out of aerosol cans.


(photo: Laura El-Tantawy / Burn Magazine. caption: Egyptian anti-government protesters sleep on the tires of a military tank stationed on Tahrir (Liberation) Square.)

Michelle: This image shows us the level of commitment. Everyone here is willing to be vulnerable and confront the reality of the powers that are beyond them entirely.


(photo: Ed Ou / The New York Times. caption: Demonstrators crammed into Tahrir Square to reject anything less than the president’s immediate ouster.)

Laura: This is the kind of picture you must have in this situation. Considering the reports you were hearing on Egyptian State TV that there were only a few thousand people in Tahrir Square, seeing this is really vital… It reminds me of images of the annual Muslim pilgrimage at Mecca.


(photo: Nevil Zaki / Twitter. caption: Christians faced outward and joined hands in a circle to protect a Muslim group of protesters as they prayed in Egypt.)

Michael: This photo hit the news wires via twitter. It shows Christians protecting Muslims in prayer. What struck me is that the look of caution implies the danger involved at the same time that the hand holding emphasizes brotherhood and solidarity. It was a very powerful and early contradiction to the fear mongering by Mubarak.


(photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill / Associated Press. caption: Anti-government protesters take pictures of protest art in Tahrir Square, the center of anti-government demonstrations, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011.)

Nathan: From the beginning of the edit we had cars and then tanks to an image from Twitter and the naming of Facebook, to the technical challenges of photographing the square and the tanks becoming a figure… in all these images, technology plays a variable role in both seeing and being available to be seen. It’s unusually in contrast to, say, Libya right now where the events are very different.

Michael: This is a corollary to the tanks in the square. It’s like they are saying, ‘You’re got your tanks, we’ve got Facebook.’ they even made it out of rocks, the same rocks that a couple days later or a couple days before became projectiles.”


(photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill / Associated Press. caption: Government protesters pray atop an Egyptian tank during traditional Friday prayers.)

David: I think these are highly ambiguous images for the west. The idea of Muslims praying next to tanks. It’s unclear as to weather these guys have the tanks or weather they are containing these people. The perpetual association between the two of them is really a conservative mind map… You can imagine Glen Beck running this pictures as evidence of his conspiracy theories of an Islamic revolution. At the same time, you can run a completely different narrative of the tanks being part of a circle containing these people.


(photo: CBS. caption: Lara Logan, the CBS news correspondent, in Tahrir Square in Cairo moments before she was assaulted.)

Loret: I was disturbed for a number of reasons, in part because of the way Americans would look at this. The reporter is an American icon. She’s blond, blue eyed. She’s wearing pearls, for heaven’s sake. She has a pastel blue jacket… We tend to hold a particular type as more valuable or more praised. When something happens to someone in our country here, we say, ‘Oh, it’s so awful. She’s so pretty,’ as if homely people deserve something. This fed into [the publication and reception of this image].

Nathan: This one image can undo in people’s minds the power of other images. That points at the fragility of the visual environment. One image, which reflects something that’s peculiar in a whole event, can overtake the event.

David: If this had taken place in time square, this photo would never have been released.


(photo: Chris Hondros / Getty Images. caption: A supporter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rides a camel through the melee during a clash between pro-Mubarak and anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square on Feb. 2, in Cairo, Egypt.)

Laura: Afterward, people in the square humorously dubbed this ‘The Horse and Camel Attack,’ harkening back to very old times when people would attack each other with swords. It shows how stupid the government was. If this how they think they were going to handle the issue, it reflects on how they were handling the country in general.


(photo: Ed Ou / New York Times. caption: Young protesters have turned a downtown Cairo apartment into a secret hiding place, recharging after long days of protest and uploading homemade documentaries about Tahrir Square to a shared Facebook page.)

Nathan: Both this image and the images in and around the tanks are images of resistance. This one is the much more consumable image of resistance in some ways and only very weakly signified resistance [in the form of youth and social media] versus the others. So, how do people visually want to see their resistance? How do they want to look at it?

David: What I really like about this picture over other images or social media and blogging is the social, collective nature of this moment. There’s a group here of people doing various things but all focused clearly around one activity… This image reinserts social media practitioners entirely into the collective and the struggle.

  • http://twitter.com/thetravelphotog tewfic el-sawy

    I wonder if some of the young emerging local (ie living in Egypt) photojournalists who work for indigenous newspapers were/will be invited to participate with their work…instead of relying on foreigners’ (or internationally established) work? Ms El-Tantawy is Egyptian, but I’m thinking of the young photojournalists who work for the local newspapers, were beaten, borrow cameras and CF cards from each other because they can’t afford otherwise…etc. Has any effort made to contact them??? It’s their revolution.

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  • http://www.bagnewsnotes.com Michael Shaw

    Tewfic, thanks for you message. I believe Laura Al-Tantawi does give us good expertise as an Egyptian photographer and Mr. Degner, though he’s not Egyptian, has been living in Cairo and is very sensitive to the concerns you raise. I should stress, though, that the focus here is less the experience of the photographer on the ground (we specifically did not include many working photographers, especially international photographers we are friendly with and who worked the story but are not from or living in Egypt). Instead, we looked to those with particular cross-cultural media expertise (Michelle Woodward of Middle East Report is certainly that) as well as others with deep experience reading media photos with cultural sensitivity (Campbell), as well as visual academics with an eye on on visual semiotics, in general, to articulate how the (largely Western) media created its own narrative of the story. If you’d like to suggest local photographers who worked the story and are articulate as regards international media framing, please contact me at openbag AT bagnews dot com with contact information. A phone number and Skype name would be helpful. Given flexibility in terms of the platform and format, it’s possible we could add other voices in. Thanks.

    • Tewfic El-Sawy

      Michael,

      as per our earlier exchange of emails, I have sent out messages to two Egyptian photographers who work in local newspapers, and am waiting for their acknowledgments, which I will share with you when received. As I mentioned, my principal intention was to suggest to you and to your staff that there were emerging young Egyptian photographers who captured the historic events in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt as well (if not better) than non Egyptians, simply because it’s their nation’s future that was at stake, and that showing their work to your panel and to their discussions would lead to their being exposed to an international audience. It’s their revolution after all.

      Ms El-Tantawi and Mr Degner may well have expertise in Egypt, but the “grunts” whose work I would have hoped could be shown in your forum may be more reflective and more ‘tactile” of the street, of the youth and of the real Egypt. I’m only suggesting the showing of their work…not have them on your panel. The panel you set up consists of well respected experts and industry leaders…no debate there.

      Thank you.

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  • James May

    Here are some documentary photos of Tahrir.

    http://www.jamesmaystock.com/EgyptRev/index.html

  • http://twitter.com/degner Egypt Photographer

    Hey Tewfic, I’m always looking to meet more young photojournalists. Who do you think stands out with a unique vision here?

    Unfortunately, I haven’t found many publications that run photos well, accept creativity, or have journalists as editors so it is a real challenge for a local photographer to walk the narrow line of news and art that is photojournalism. Hopefully, that will change as old editors are replaced and the red lines are crossed.

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