These series of portraits came out somehow incidentally while I was working on another project in Cairo. Shooting these portraits was in fact initially used as the entry point to start re-establishing a connection with the people and a culture I had been apart from for almost one year, but eventually it turned out to become a project with its own dignity, unforeseeably substituting the previous one and overtaking completely my interest.
The reason why this occurred is because while using portraits as a powerful means to get at ease with the people I was willing to understand better, in order to create the necessary atmosphere for trying to go more in depth, I was impressed by the need of people I was incidentally running into to get in contact with me, the only stranger walking through the narrow commercial alleys in Cairo, literally asking me to take pictures of them, often giving me their mail or trying to ask me to come back with their picture printed. As a consequence many questions started rising in my head: why was this happening, why did these men want so much me to take picture of them? Why does this particular attitude show up in this particular moment of their history? I had been in Cairo several time before and yet, people there are quite friendly but such request never came out that strongly before.
Cairo people are certainly known for their great hospitality and this for sure was the first immediate reason for their behavior towards me, but this explanation wasn’t enough, since I had been there other times and this willingness to be photographed wasn’t that strong.
Cairo traditional attitude to business and towards tourism is well known and it has always historically represented a big source of economic sustenance for Cairo and Egypt in general. Unfortunately this has dramatically changed in the last 3 years due to the inevitable impact of the January 2011 revolution. Tourism in Cairo dropped enormously since then and one can barely see even one tourist around Cairo city center, with the exception of Zamalek area, where the embassies are concentrated.
Even if some tourists are there, they surely avoid to adventure themselves in the Cairo commercial areas since every place excluding regular touristic path is perceived to be unsafe.
Thus I guess this is the explanation for this continue request to take pictures of them: this peculiar time of their history, forcing them in not exploiting their incredible developed business attitude towards tourism leads to a strong need to get in touch as much as they can with whoever happens to pass by not being part of their community, whoever stranger…to maybe even prove they can still be good on that.