Artist Spotlight: Donia Said Kamel

The Maadi Messenger recently had the chance to hear from up-and-coming artist, Donia Said Kamel, a teacher who found a passion for photography and took a turn in her career path.



The Maadi Messenger recently had the chance to hear from up-and-coming artist, Donia Said Kamel, a teacher who found a passion for photography and took a turn in her career path. Her photos speak to the intricate beauty hidden in corners all throughout Cairo - those spaces that can’t quite be conveyed in words. She spoke with us about feeling that initial moment of inspiration, and what continues to draw her further into the realm of photographer.


Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?

 I started as a normal student in the Faculty of Arts. In the English department. Then, I finished my studying, I started working as an English teacher – now for 11 years.


After that, I figured out that this felt dull. I love teaching, but I wanted to do something else. I decided to figure out what. I knew some of my friends...they were working as photographers. I started to go online to learn more, taking photos. I started taking shots by myself. Whatever I was learning online or in workshops, I just started practicing. I participated in groups – international and Egyptian. I started publishing my photos, and, actually with my surprise, a lot of people liked these. One of my friends told me, ‘you really have an eye for this!” He told me to go read more, attend workshops by famous photographers, and, from then, I started my career as a photographer.


In which exhibitions have you participated in?

My first exhibition was last March. I’ve started entering into competitions and participating in exhibitions, sharing with different artists and photographers.


I’ve had three exhibitions in El Sawy. Another exhibition was with some artists - painters from the Arab world. We shared an exhibition, part photographers and part painters.


The last exhibition I was in was one for the museum of Islamic Art. There was a contest. We just sent our work, and they chose 60 photographers to go into the museum and take shots for the exhibition. I was one of the artists chosen.


What themes have inspired you?

What inspired me, really, was street photography. Going into old areas in Egypt, like Al-Hussein, El Moez Street, El-Gamaleya – all of these areas – and finding the people over there, watching them work or chatting with them. I started taking photos of these people, and actually, I thought, “This is…wow.” It inspired another side inside me too -  the writer in me.


What have you been writing?

I started writing columns in Arabic. I was inspired by these tours in different areas in Egypt. I started published in Al Fikre newspaper.


You can say I write about emotions – about people, how you feel –what can I say – different kinds of people. It just comes to me. I start writing, and after that I go and publish it – things about life, what people feel every day.


What do you hope people take away from your photos?

 I hope they see the pictures, and see what I see. You know, a man working in his own shop - there’s something there. I remember in one of my photos – I took a photo of a man while he was reading a newspaper. He had no idea. All the expressions on his face, you can just feel it. And, everyone that saw this picture just felt the same feeling – all the expressions, it’s not like he was doing this for a photo. I was just standing and taking shots.


What do you love most about being a photographer?

It brings about different feelings inside of you – first of all, street photography and portraits.

This is the kind of photography I like most. After that, you can say natural landscapes and scenes, I do like.


What plans do you have now moving forward with your art?

 I hope that I can publish some of my photos in a book, and write about some of the historical background of the places where I took the photos. I’d love to have another book to collect my articles and poems.


What else do you enjoy doing?

Well, I’m a mother. A busy mother. I finish work, see my girls – I live a normal mother’s life.

I owe my husband a big thanks. He’s always helpful when I have a workshop or photo shoot. He encourages me.



Interview conducted by Ioanna Moriatis



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