Meeting up with Mahmoud Gaballah
I have always been a big believer in the power of coincidence. That is how I knew about Mahmoud Gaballah, who was mentioned in one of my cousin’s status updates on Facebook where she called him “One of the best photographers in the world”. Right away, I took the chance, tracked Gaballah down and found out that my cousin was absolutely right.
Even if you do not believe that Mahmoud Gaballah is “one of the best”, I am sure that you will be able to appreciate the beauty in each of his shots. Capturing what might seem as forgotten people and places, Gaballah highlights the beauty of mundane things and faces that we usually pass by everyday but never realize their preciousness or uniqueness. Without much fuss, Gaballah portrays the world as it is without many “retouches”, yet you can still feel the artistic touch in every photo.
Despite his young age, Mahmoud Gaballah is an award-winning photographer who has gained acclaim and recognition among the public and photographers’ community in Alexandria. I have had the pleasure to ask Gaballah some questions to know more about him and his work.
Tell me all about yourself.
I am a fresh university graduate with a degree in Petroleum Engineering. Although art is not my field of study, I’ve always had a passion for visual arts in general. I am always delighted when I see a fine piece of art. When I was little, I used to draw. I joined summer workshops for kids and participated in four exhibitions. Now I’m into photography, and looking forward to learning more about different kinds of visual arts. I see art as an alternative language for people to express their feelings and communicate their thoughts and experiences to others.
When and why did you decide to get into the photography field?
In 2006, I got my first digital camera. I didn’t know much about photography back then, but I was fascinated by different types of photography, and was very curious to learn how photographers captured such shots. Three years later, I got my first DSLR camera, and started to read more about photography and understand how the camera works. Then, I joined a photography club in Alexandria which helped me a lot. That is how I took off.
How did your membership in a photography club help you enrich your repertoire?
Well, I met many talented young photographers and made lots of friends. My friends and I have always been trying to educate ourselves, criticize each other’s work and help one another improve and grow as photographers. Then, I started to volunteer to give presentations to other members of the club. That has been a big milestone for me, as I think that sharing your knowledge with others encourages everybody to learn more and share what they have learned.
You are a young photographer with a long list of awards, how do you feel about that?
It makes you feel good, of course. You feel that your work has been appreciated by others. But I don’t think of it as a way to rank photographers or something that could make someone better than others. Art is not standard by any means. It is very relative. I may like a photo that you don’t, and vice versa. Judging in photo contests is controlled by the taste of the judges. Yes some photos are much powerful way more than others, but that’s not a rule that can be applied in all cases. I think what really defines a photographer is not the number of prizes he has got, but the message he is trying to send through his photos, and the impact of his work on the community.
Most photographers nowadays focus on beauty; taking shots of models, weddings, nature….etc. But you focus on capturing simple people and places that most people rarely recognize, why is that?
In general I like photos that tell stories. Simple people and places in Egypt are full of stories that need to be told. I like to explore those places and get to know those people especially craftsmen.
Your most favorite shot?
“The Liberty Avenue” which got the first prize in “Yaqout al Sahwy” photo contest. I love this photo because I was able to express how I see the Egyptian revolution in one shot.
If there is one single shot that you’d like to take, what would you like to capture?
I can’t decide on the content of such a photo right now, but I’m sure I’d want it to express the originality and uniqueness of the beautiful Egyptian culture.
Finally, how did photography influence you?
Photography encouraged me to travel and explore different places in Egypt, and I will definitely travel more outside Egypt when I get a chance.