Nadia Mounier Cairo, Egypt
Portsaid, Suez Canal
A contemporary digital photographer, born in 1988, lives and works in Cairo, Egypt. Nadia Studied Applied Arts, Hulwan University and received her BA in 2010. She works as an art and freelance photographer. Nadia ‘s passion to photography has started since 2006, depending on Self-learning.
Her concerns mainly center on street documentary photography and representations of the self. She works with photography in an expanded sense and uses innovation installations in her exhibitions.
Nadia is a part of different art and reading groups, Ranciere reading group in Cairo, Everyday Egypt photo group, Urbanile photo group and Jadaliya. She has exhibited and participated in residency programs internationally.
Some recent exhibitions and awards are: Backlight Photo Festival (Finalnd, Sep 2014), Marseille Vu Par 100 Photographs (Marseille, April 2013), Kairo: open city (Braunschweig, Sep 2012) and the Bjecm Biennale the Mediterranen (Ancona,
Nadia Mounier was chosen by photographer Birgitta Lund.
Laatikkomo’s interview with Nadia Mounier September 20th, 2014.
L: Where are you from? What cities, and/or countries have you lived in – or what places have influenced you?
NM: I live and am based in Cairo, Egypt. I have visited other cities in Europe but just for workshops and photo festivals.
Cairo is my main inspiration to make new works.
L: What is your earliest memory of photography?
NM: In 2005, I used my mobile camera to take random photos, and later I found myself attracted to the idea of making photos and doing trails of compositions with light. Also my study at Applied Arts school helped me a lot to go on and find my way to photography.
L: Your work “SOUTK” is currently part of the Backlight Photography Festival in Tampere, Finland. We had the pleasure of meeting you personally during the Artists’ Talk at the exhibition. Some of the questions here came up at the Artists’ Talk, but it would be interesting to repeat/expand a bit here for Laatikkomo if you don’t mind: Does the political content of your work in any way put your life or well being at risk?
NM: I don’t think so, although the work was already featured in one of the local newspapers, which means the security knows about it.
But only rarely it happens that artists are put at risk because of their art. I think that the security and police don’t pay much attention to artists. They don’t understand how much influence their art can have. So they don’t care about them that much.
Although you can have risk on the spot, if you shooting video or holding a camera in the wrong place, or if you’re caught doing graffiti. All this needs permission from their point of view which no artist cares to have. But to follow and prevent art spaces, galleries and exhibitions is really one of their least interests.
L: Your project “SOUTK” directly reacts to the political election process and representatives. What other political issues are you interested in exposing?
NM: I am not interested in the political scene in Egypt at the moment as much as I am interested in the urban city and the changes following everything related to politics.
My passion is to follow and expose the way power in Egypt deals with the city metropolis.
I have just done a new project. It’s a series of documentary photographs accompanied by a written story-text. Together they both reflect an image of the complicated relationship between photography, people and power in Cairo. The story tackles the challenges of a female photographer in Cairo and the clashes she has to face with the higher interests of the country.
L: As a young photographer, what changes have you seen in Egyptian photography since the recent uprising? What role do you think Egyptian photography and/or art has played during/after this uprising?
NM: Art photography in Egypt is not the main attraction. But photojournalism was reborn again after the uprising. For so long photojournalism was limited to very poor photos of boring events taking place. It was completely controlled by the previous regimes. In my art school, photography department was only concerned with commercial photography. We didn’t have real photojournalism studies. But since the uprising, this was completely changed, We have a very amazing new generation of photojournalists, with new photo-stories everyday that are really true and original.
I think that photography was one of the main factors that rescued the uprising and turned its way many times. I’d mention the photo of the blue-bra girl by Photographer Mohammed ElMasry (that girl that was stripped by the police in the streets while protesting) and how it hits everyone’s conscious. At first local newspapers couldn’t publish it until reuters dared to and it was massively shared after that in all kinds of social media. The photo was stenciled in everywhere around Tahrir square and different places. It turned to be an icon.
There are many other examples to mention.
L: Has your work as a photographer changed since the uprising? Has the uprising inspired you to speak out more openly about your political feelings?
NM: For sure it has changed, before the uprising of Jan25 in 2011, I cared very little about the political scene in Egypt, and I was already in my early stages of photography. What happened in 2011 brought the awareness to everyone. It was like a hit on the head to our concepts and interests. Art in Cairo was refreshed and one couldn’t resist to reply to the surroundings. Many workshops were held, talks, conferences and exhibitions. All such activities reform the art scene, attracting more and more young artists. I’d say, since that, I kind of found my way in photography.
Personally the uprising helped me to expose my work more. The attraction of the world to Egypt, opened the way to many opportunities for artists. I was lucky to have some that helped me a lot.
But on the political side, I’d be fair to say that, what is happening in Egypt is brand new to everyone, I cannot expect what’s next, through the whole 3 years, the consequences were never expected, only ups and downs and all you can do is wait. In that case, I’d prefer to observe rather than to speak out, I think it needs some time to digest what’s happening and start to produce new work out of it. If I would do anything other than this, I’d be an activist which I am not.
L: How did you begin or why did you begin taking snapshots of Cairo or “Cairo Snaps”?
NM: It all started after my return from Marseille by 2012, I was there for a month as a part of photography workshop. My stay there helped refresh my eyes to Cairo again. I started to see new frames in what looked ordinary or boring. I redefine beauty and ugliness. I came with the courage to make photos in the streets without fear.
And already what happened to Cairo after the uprising and how it reacts as a city to the massive changes happening, after all these years of death, was a real inspiration. I even consider Soutk a part of my interest in the city rather than a political view of my own.
L: How has the city of Cairo affected your photography, do you think you could make similar work in an unknown environment?
NM: Cairo is fast, it’s always on. I have to be ready at any time to take photos. I always have my camera with me. For example that photo shown in Laatikkomo, I was walking in the street when I saw that guy coming towards me, I luckily had my camera on, I snap him fast before he disappears with the crowd. It really took few seconds to realize his coming and took the photo.
Nothing stayed the same, It’s always changing. I lost many photos cause I planned to take it another time, and when I went back, it was already gone. Cairo is chaotic but it helped me to find order in such chaos. it really developed the way I compose my frames and the way I look at photographs. The city is old and historical, yet decaying, but It grew my attention to making photos of its architecture. I hope I could make images that show some of the essence of such great city.
I am not sure, for me, Cairo and the other cities I visited in Egypt, are very special. But I think that wherever I found what attracts me to do this snaps, I will follow it.
L: Many of your projects seem to be driven by the observation of your surroundings. Do you have specific concerns for the future of Cairo, Egypt and/or globally?
NM: The attention to building new compounds and getting out of the crowd is increasing every day. There’s now a New Cairo, where all the money is paid for and all the business developments. It’s new and fashion. It’s a new city above the real city. New-born residents of New Cairo know very little about the real Cairo. That’s why I mentioned that the city might be decaying in spite of its historical value. And the government is not really paying attention to the consequences. But instead they are planning to transfer all the institutions from the capital to this new one. What I really hate about these new communities, is that they lack identity, there is only this eager to live in new, modern, huge and expensive places in an endless cycle of consumtion.
I am afraid of losing this priceless heritage.
Could you list 5 (or more) words that you were thinking about when you made this work (shown in Laatikkomo)?
NM: no particular words. But I always find those people as a true representation to the brilliant ability of Egyptians: to adapt and find their way whatever happens. Life doesn’t stop in Egypt. There was a song released as the main track for an independent film, the song is named after the film, called Hawi, Magician. That man who does tricks to earn his living. The lyrics are drawing a true image of those people.
Thank you so much Nadia!!