Many different faces can be encountered while walking on the streets of Egypt; the happy, the sad, the careworn, the hopeful and the tired. You can find young faces booming with hope, and other, wrinkled ones, marked by long years of hardship: all of them are genuinely Egyptian.
But have you ever tried to discover the story behind each face? Perhaps not in real life; but you can give it a try with the “Egyptians” Facebook page.
“Egyptians” is a photo album, including photographs of random Egyptians met across Egypt’s cities, featuring their lives, dreams or hopes in a brief caption. The page was created by Ahmed Hayman, a young, talented photojournalist, who is passionate about taking photos of people in Egyptian streets. Nine years of photojournalism have been enough to break the ice, when looking into the eyes of people wary of the camera flash.
“The main reason behind the page is to portray the people in simple photos, to make them the main heroes and the celebrities,” Hayman told Egypt independent.
The people photographed by Hayman usually give him inspirational captions spontaneously, but the main aim of the young photojournalist is to make the “photos talk,” not the words.
The popular Facebook page "Humans of New York" was Hayman’s inspiration to start an Egyptian page based on a similar idea in the end of 2013. Due to the country’s political situation, the page was temporarily suspended.
“I travelled to Dubai, where I accidentally met Brandon Stanton, the founder of "Humans of New York," who gave an inspiring and creative speech. This encouraged me to think again about the Facebook page, especially that I'm a photojournalist ” Hayman recalled.
Hayman has his own Facebook page, but he did not mention his name in any of the photos submitted to "Egyptians". “It was an attempt to brand the photos, and I was very pleased when I received many messages inquiring about the page’s admin,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, the page went viral on Facebook, with more than 66,500 fans in a very short time. Hayman received many messages from the whole world, expressing their admiration for the photos. “This is Egypt,” was a frequent comment received by many of the followers, who got a chance to receive a boost of positive energy from the photographs.
Talking about his motivation to create the page, Hayman said: “Actually, in Egypt we have a big problem with online networking, people solely communicate with the ones they know, so one of the big reasons behind the page is to get people connected by sharing their hopes, dreams and lives, in order to find common experiences."
Hayman did not feel worried while taking close-up shots of random people in the street. In fact, he believes most of them were quite welcoming. “Before taking photos of anyone, I should start a warm, pleasant conversation to pave the way,” Hayman said.
“I pick people randomly, from various social levels. I do not focus only on the poor struggling workers, I take pictures of the affluent classes too, because the main purpose of the page is to portray the entire Egyptian society,” he added.
Photo by: Ahmed Hayman (Cairo)
My biggest struggle is being a single mom, responsible for everything.
My son is my biggest joy in life.
When asked about how he chooses the next portrait, he said: “There are no fixed criteria when I pick someone to photograph; I feel a special, glowing energy towards the person I wish to talk to, and I feel there is good story.”
“Positive energy” is the main message of most photos: “there is a always short caption, featuring a positive story, or a negative situation which had a positive outcome,” Hayman said. "For example, one of the photos on the page depicted a single mother, whose biggest struggle is carrying the responsibility for everything related to the upbringing of her little kid. After the photo was posted, she received many inspiring and encouraging comments, which amazingly raised her spirits."
One of the most popular photos on the Facebook page is a photo of a young girl in a black sleeveless shirt, whose dream is that "one morning she will put on the most beautiful dress she has, and that she will walk down the streets without anyone harassing her."
Many photos stuck in Hayman’s mind, so it was difficult to pick the photograph that has influenced him the most: "There are many photos with lots of stories, but the most popular photo on the page is the old woman, who thought in the beginning that I was flirting with her."
Photo by: Ahmed Hayman (Cairo)
Are you flirting with me?
No, I want to take a picture of you
Hmm, alright but don't make me ugly.
Is it possible to take an ugly picture of a beautiful woman?
Hehehe, alright! Then take a picture and show it to me.