In Cairo, it’s the smell of diesel that hits you first. Second to that is the noise: street vendors, car horns, the five AM prayer calls. It’s a beautiful and irreverent city that has been home to some of the world’s most influential people. But at a certain point, it can become overwhelming, “with all its madness and absurdity,” says Hana Gamal. Here’s where the photographer’s project Green Grass comes in, offering respite from the dizzying movements of Cairo’s streets.
Before she had her photography featured in The New York Times, Huck Magazine and The Huffington Post, Hana says it was a “once in a lifetime experience” that led her to where she is as a photographer today. Rewind to 25 January 2011: as Egypt erupts in revolution, Hana takes out her phone to document the events. “I felt something beautiful and strange happening,” she tells It’s Nice That. “It was an indescribable feeling that only the ones who were there could comprehend and sense. I felt that I was witnessing history being made in front of my eyes and I wanted to keep that memory with me forever. So I spontaneously took out my phone and started taking pictures, and I haven’t stopped since.”
Photographing the streets of Cairo helped Hana understand and rediscover herself within her country: “It brought me closer to the streets and my people.” Going from wanting to pursue a career in psychology and art therapy to wanting to be a photographer, Hana began taking courses in photography at university to learn the discipline. Like any art form, it wasn’t easy starting out. “I was so lost in the world and unsure if I had made the right decision. Phases of frustrations, failures and losses. So many people around me were telling me to leave photography or keep it as a hobby on the side and find a stable, nine-to-five job; but the voices in my head were much louder than theirs, something inside me was telling me to continue.” And it’s a good thing Hana listened to that inner voice.
Cut to several years of patient practice and hard work later, Hana arrives at the project Green Grass, alluding to the pastoral scenes around Egypt which she has been seeking solace in. What fascinated her most about these parts of the country were the rural women: “Egyptian women inspire me in so many ways and they are a huge part of my work. Their beauty, their strength, their vulnerability, their stories; I feel a deep need to share their stories.”