Monday, 28 November 2011

Miguel Ángel Sánchez: Portraits Of Egyptians

Photo ©  Miguel Ángel Sánchez-All Rights Reserved

Since elections are going full steam ahead in Egypt, The New York Times' Lens blog has featured Portraits of Egyptians, a series of wonderful photographs by the talented Miguel Ángel Sánchez.

I absolutely love seeing photographic work of that nature...ethnographic to a large extent, and produced by borrowing the techniques of the Old Masters. Miguel Ángel Sánchez photographed 110 residents of Cairo in his studio; these included musicians, painters, politicians, writers, bloggers, shoeshiners, doormen, and the vendor of flowers above, which is absolutely my favorite amongst all of them. My least favorite is that of Zahi Hawass, the ex-Minister of Antiquities, not because of the image but because of the man himself. I don't know the man, but I developed an antipathy for his brash behavior and loudness in National Geographic television specials (as an example).

You will not find the photograph of the flower vendor on the Lens blog, but rather it's on Miguel Ángel Sánchez website. The flowers she's seen selling are jasmine, which are popular in Egypt for the powerful sweet smell. I believe the jasmine flowers sold on string strands are called "fol", and are popular in Egypt to deodorize one's car or to gift to one's sweetheart while strolling the city's gardens.

But back to the LENS blog...a comment was rather critical of the photographer for choosing to depict the Egyptians in Renaissance settings. I disagree. In choosing the lighting and poses similar to those we have seen so many times in museums and galleries the photographer creates acceptability for his subjects to the Western eye.