Egyptorama
<p>Photographer Julien Chatelin’s images capture Egypt’s surreal and absurd rural landscape; a road that leads to nowhere.</p>
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Photographer Julien Chatelin’s images capture Egypt’s surreal and absurd rural landscape; a road that leads to nowhere.

The images of a crowded and riotous Tahrir Square are the most recent portraits of Egypt burnished in the public imagination. They offer a glimpse into a constantly evolving narrative of a nation whose political upheaval has transformed our understanding and perceptions of politics in the Arab world.

Far from Cairo’s tumultuous center, however, lies a world trapped in time, cities littered with the remains of real-estate promoters’ pharaonic projects. It is an abandoned landscape where a solitary figure wandering the empty streets seems to endlessly linger, and the half-built apartment buildings scattered on the sides of the road give the impression not only of defeat, but a cruel absurdity.

A lonely door built in the middle of the desert, a forest of lampposts, a mosque shaped like a spaceship; emptiness turns brutally into strangeness, creating a tension between people and their environment. This is Egyptorama—a road trip that leads nowhere.

A lonely door built in the middle of the desert, a forest of lampposts, a mosque shaped like a spaceship; emptiness turns brutally into strangeness, creating a tension between people and their environment. This is Egyptorama—a road trip that leads nowhere.

The photographs in this series were taken in Egypt in the midst of the enduring turmoil sparked by the revolution, but they do not belong to a particular moment in time, much less to any one city. They are photographs from a lost and hidden corner of Egypt, spread across more than 8,000 kilometers, and yet they are not exclusive to it. They are portraits not of a country or movement, but of isolation, emptiness and the futile and sometimes absurd lengths that we as individuals and nations are willing, or are forced to go in order to fill those voids. This is an Egypt without narrative; an Egypt that is an aperture into a desolate and haunting beauty that endures.

After graduating from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in photography, Julien Chatelin returned to France in 1992 to become an independent photojournalist. His work took him frequently to the Caucasus, the Balkans, Abkhazia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Kurdistan, Xinjiang, central Asia, the Middle East, Western Sahara and Tibet.

In 2000 Julien Chatelin co-founded the award-winning French photo reportage magazine de l’air. In 2008 Julien Chatelin published Israel Borderline (Images en Manoeuvre), a 160 page monographic book, depicting the complexity of Israeli society. The book was later a finalist for the prestigious 2009 POYi book award.

2 Comments on “Egyptorama

  1. We give a lot of aid to Egypt; I wonder how many of my tax dollars are crumbling to dust in those deserts. Oh wait: none. My tax dollars are probably safe in the pockets of the developers. Whew.

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