Creative Layover: Cairo

by Lex van den Berghe

posted on 08-29-2018

Welcome to Cairo, where the temperature is hot, and the local time is ripe for exploration. We’re taking you on a trek through the cultural center of Egypt, but it’s not one most tourists would expect. Instead of standing at the feet of the Great Sphinx of Giza or wandering through the stalls of a bazaar, let’s take a tour of Cairo’s rich art scene as we highlight a photographer, a photo manipulator, and an illustrator for our sixth installment of Creative Layover.

Cairo, Egypt

A booming population bustles through one of Africa’s largest metropolises, where cars swarm paved streets and dusty laneways support only donkey carts. Built upon centuries of art and history, Cairo offers a unique fusion of the ancient and modern worlds, with Egyptian treasures such as the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Egyptian Museum, along with a vibrant city center. Traditional architectural motifs extend across urban skyscrapers, making this the perfect backdrop for the three individuals you’re about to meet. Come along with us as we introduce these artists from Cairo whose works are inspired by their cosmopolitan city.

Photographer – Mosa’ab Elshamy

For the first 21 years of his life, Mosa’ab Elshamy had no intention of becoming a photojournalist. Enrolled in pharmacy school, he saw photography as no more than a hobby. But when the Egyptians rose up against Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Mosa’ab changed direction. He now covers daily news stories, as well as in-depth cultural and social documentary projects across the Middle East and Northern Africa.

Revolution Fireworks. “This is one of my earlier photos during the Egyptian revolution, which took place in 2011. It was the reason I switched my career and became a photojournalist. I was covering clashes in downtown Cairo between security forces and revolutionaries, who occasionally used fireworks to hit back. I waited for the right moment to capture the explosion and the silhouettes. The most exciting aspect of photojournalism is the spontaneity of it. No matter how you visualize the image beforehand, the outcome is always different and unique.”

Cairo Children. “Children posed for a portrait outside of their school in a popular neighborhood on the outskirts of Cairo. To get the right composition, I needed to fill the frame while shooting and later used the Brush Tool in Lightroom to sharpen and highlight their faces.”

Sufis in a Mosque. “On a hot afternoon in the desert near Hurghada, worshippers attending a religious celebration took shelter from the sweltering sun inside a mosque. The light outside was unforgiving but inside it was just the right amount.”

Mosa’ab’s tips, tricks, and parting words of advice: On editing saturation in Lightroom: “Selective luminance/saturation in the Adjustment can yield much better, more subtle results than the saturation bar. Sometimes a photo can benefit by using only one or two colors, which cannot be maintained by the saturation bar.”

On artistic inspiration: “To be an artist is to be aware of as many forms of art as possible. They might not seem initially connected, but they are. Poetry, painting, and sculpture can all inspire your next work. Nothing drives me more than curiosity.”

Photo manipulator – Ahmed Emad Eldin

Ahmed Emad Eldin is an acclaimed digital artist and photo manipulator whose work has been displayed all over, from museums to the sleeve of Pink Floyd’s album “The Endless River” (pictured below). Featured as one of Adobe’s 25 Under 25, Ahmed has made a name for himself in the global digital art space. Although he often produces commercial work, much of his artwork comes from his own dreams. He uses his art as a medium to express stories, feelings, and hidden messages.

Limits.“Limits are the perfect example of something each and every one of us can relate to. As humans, we always have limits for everything. In this artwork, I’m talking about the limits we have for our feelings and emotions.”

Roots. “Roots is a piece that I created after I had a dream of this scene a while ago. My dreams always have surreal elements to them. This piece illustrates what it’s like to have too many feelings in one moment, where everything is unknown.”

Beyond the Sky. “This is one of my most remarkable pieces so far. I was listening to a song by Pink Floyd while creating it! It was a shock to receive an email from the band asking to buy the artwork for their album cover, The Endless River. The band made my dreams come true.”

Ahmed’s tips, tricks, and parting words of advice: On adding noise to an image: “I usually put a gray overlay layer with noise on top of the artwork layers. When a picture has noise, it looks cleaner. Noise is cool because it can make your pixels more uniform and well mixed. Then, if I’m sharing the piece on social media, I resize it using Photoshop with automatic settings set to 1200px.”

On making art: “Imagine, feel, and create. Don’t wait for a reason. Time is important, and you must use it right away to get the best of yourself. Use every moment to learn, and don’t go a day without learning one new thing.”

Illustrator – Aya Marzouk

With a particular interest in picture books and animated videos, Aya Marzouk is a natural-born illustrator. As a child, she used to illustrate the books she read. Over the years, as she learned how to use digital tools and as she gained more access to digital art technology, Aya’s art has expanded and evolved. She finds inspiration for her art not only in the tools she uses, but also in the city she calls home. Living in Cairo — a place overflowing with diversity and lush history — has enhanced her visual experience, which is reflected in her artwork.

Treehouse. “Consider this my dream house. Growing up in the city, I had a constant dream of greenery and forests. The penetrating sun rays mixed with the greenery soothes my soul.”

Circus. “As a child, the circus always fascinated me. Those performers were like superheroes. In this project, I wanted to highlight the colorful nature of this dazzling environment while showcasing the superheroes doing their best tricks.”

Cairo. “This piece is inspired by my daily life in Cairo. The city’s diversity is reflected in this artwork as a melting block.”

Aya’s tips, tricks, and parting words of advice: On making the most of her tools: “I like to use both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. I use Illustrator to create shapes in no time, then I drag them to Photoshop to refine them, giving them an artistic touch.”

On patience: “Everything needs a lot of practice and takes a lot of time. I personally believe that a good artist should be patient and have an eye for detail. So watch everything around you, feed your soul from your surroundings, and reflect your experiences in your art. That’s the way to originality.”

For more from these artists, check out their social channels below:

Mosa’ab Elshamy | Website | Instagram

Ahmed Emad Eldin | Instagram | Behance

Aya Marzouk | Instagram | Behance

Check out our last two stops in Istanbul and Rio de Janeiro, and stay tuned for our next installment of Creative Layover, where we will spotlight three artists in a new city.

Topics: Creativity, Art

Products: Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator, Creative Cloud