Downtown Cairo is gearing up for its second Cairo Photo Week, a photography festival that kicks off today with a programme of exhibitions, talks and workshops.
The event is being hosted at two large venues, including the newly reopened Rawabet Theatre, a prominent art space in the Egypt capital.
The theme of this year's festival is Depth Off Field because of its focus on "expanding the photographic eye and mind across many fields of photography, encouraging photographers and image-makers to widen their artistic, technical and business perspectives", according to a statement by the festival.
Under the larger theme, the event will be broken up into many smaller events, each with its own unique theme and purpose.
"The festival will constitute 70 per cent learning and 30 per cent exhibitions, open studios, photography services and networking events with speakers, lecturers, and local, regional, and international exhibitors who will present the various workshops," Marwa Abou Leila, co-founder and managing partner of Photopia, tells The National.
Photopia is Cairo's foremost photography school and the festival's main organiser.
Although the festival is taking place amid the pandemic, organisers said that compared to the first event, which took place in 2018, the programme this year is much more extensive.
In 2021, it brings together the work of more than 100 photographers to be showcased across 11 exhibitions under different themes and styles. One exhibition, Photo Kegham of Gaza: Unboxing, features archival shots of the Gaza strip with some photos dating back to the 1800s.
"All aspects of photography are well represented this year, we have everything from fashion and food photography to documentaries and photojournalism," says Abou Leila.
While audiences will certainly enjoy the photography, it's really the photographers who are the most excited for the festival's events, which are set to include a number of technical workshops and masterclasses by professionals in the field.
One of the festival’s most anticipated activities is a workshop hosted by award-winning American documentary photographer and Guggenheim fellow Maggie Steber. Another workshop will be hosted by renowned Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam.
"There are some really big names giving talks and hosting workshops this year, and that's why most people bought a ticket," says video journalist Aya Khaled, who is based in Cairo.
The work of several prominent videographers will also be showcased at the much-anticipated Cima exhibit, which will include stills from some of Mena's most prominent films, such as The Blue Elephant.
Abou Leila explains that the decision to include videography work is an attempt to foster deeper connections between the various kinds of media.
While the festival's exhibitions are open to visitors free of charge, entry to talks, workshops and masterclasses, which are really the centrepiece of the programme, costs 650 Egyptian pounds ($41.3) for the all-access ticket and 150 Egyptian pounds for a day pass.
In light of the pandemic, there will also be a virtual pass that allows attendees to live-stream the festival's events, including the talks and workshops. This costs 350 Egyptian pounds.
The Cairo Photo Week runs until Saturday, March 20. More information is available at www.photopiacairo.com.