About - The Cairo Project

All images on this site are (c) Youssef Rakha. Youssef Rakha blogs on thesultan.blot.im and edits yrakha.com. He is also on Twitter and Instagram as Sultans_Seal. You can reach him at yrakha@gmail.com


"A good photo is a miracle." –Josef Koudelka

Antoine d'Agata says, "Photographers have to accept they can just convey fragments of illusory realities and relate their own intimate experience of the world. In this process of fictionalising an unreachable truth, it's up to them to impose their doubts about any photographic truth, or accept being impotent pawns in the mediatic game."

I'm interested in imposing my doubts about photographic truth. I'm interested in using photography the way I have used fiction and poetry to reflect on Cairo: to achieve a beauty that comes not from the subject but from the manner of its transformation into a consensual language – words or images, within a tradition – which is a process that occurs in the photographer, not in the photographed. My photos are small fictions that draw on and use reality. They are documents in the equivocal sense of artefacts that can evoke a variety of responses.

To this end I've developed three photographic commandments: (1) You shall not seek out or set up a subject. Your subject is your living space and the people you share it with. (2) You shall use a wide to normal focal length, not because that is more real or authentic but because it ensures your unseen presence in the picture. (3) You shall photograph in any and all available light. Even the least photogenic light will contribute to the creative challenge of a given exposure.

I am a bilingual writer and image maker focusing on post-millennial Cairo not only as a setting/subject but also as a possible place from which to see the contemporary world and present-day global culture: a position or a perspective. Inspired as much by Orhan Pamuk or the late Saul Leiter as I am by historical figures like Jabarti and Piri Reis, I think of myself as a post-Muslim city chronicler employing fictional as much as documentary strategies to re-map my place of birth. Born, raised and based in Cairo, I graduated from Hull University, UK, in 1998. My exhibition “Cairo-Alexandria/Berlin” was held at the Geothe Institute in Cairo in 2006. More recently photo stories of mine have appeared in Panorama Mada Masr and Mashalla News. 

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