As Nataal’s New African Photography exhibition at Red Hook Labs approaches, we introduce the artists who make up our group show

Meet Owise Abuzaid. An applied arts graduate working in Cairo, he only finished his studies in 2014 yet the following year the young photographer and filmmaker’s Yellow Shirt series won two prizes at the Youth Salon, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture’s annual national arts competition. The body of work was also exhibited at LagosPhoto 2015 and this year he was selected for the New York Times Portfolio Review.

Having lived through revolution in Cairo, he was tempted to become a photojournalist but when his Canon EOS 550D got broken in a clash on the streets, he decided to stick to using an iPhone and turned his attentions to more abstract views and perspectives. And with almost 100K followers on Instagram today, he’s clearly doing something right. Each intriguing shot speaks about the contradictions of everyday life in his city.

How did you discover photography?
My first photography class was in my first year at university in 2010. I didn’t think I was interested but my professor told me that I had an eye. After that I realised that photography was my passion. I watch a lot of movies to help me develop my perception also.


Describe the images you are exhibiting with us at Red Hook Labs?
There are two images of my Yellow Shirt series, which is an alternative documentary project whereby I shot events that were happening to me using a yellow shirt to represents my presence. Another black and white blurry image is of some Sufi men celebrating the birth of El Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed. I also love the images of parked cars because I am fascinated by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who would wrap objects up before shooting them. Then there is an image of a sleepy homeless woman on a Cairo's street. It felt to me that she was a free woman who did not concern herself with what people say.  As this is the first time my work will be exhibiting the US, I hope that visitors to Red Hook Labs will gain an appreciation of Egyptian culture through my images.

Who inspires you?
John Baldessari’s work and story inspires me on so many levels. He burned his paintings when he was 46 years old in order to turn them into a new artwork. I am also intrigued by the way he filmed himself writing and played with visual elements in so many different ways. Because of him I will never make boring art.

What has been your proudest achievement so far?
When I was exhibiting my work in Cairo there was a moment when I decided to step away from it and pretend that I was not the photographer who took them. I started listening to what the people were saying about my pictures and it felt good.

What are your current projects?
I am developing an on-going portrait series plus a travel story about beaches in Egypt. I hope to shoot my first film soon and develop my skills as a cinematographer.

Nataal: New African Photography at Red Hook Labs,
133-135 Imlay St, Brooklyn, New York 11231
On view: 7-15 May, 2016

Words Helen Jennings

Visit Owise Abuzaid
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