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Photo contest tries to capture the land of contrast

In a country where BMWs share traffic with donkey carts, and glistening skyscrapers cast shadows over red-bricked slums, the many contrasts of Egypt offer photographers a goldmine of curious sights.

Hoping to boost interest and creativity among Egypt’s amateur photographers, the European Commission Delegation established two weeks ago its second photography competition with the theme of capturing those very contrasts.

Called Egypt: Land of Contrasts, the competition entailed amateur photographers sending in three photos aimed at portraying, in whatever form they want, the diversities and disparities that color the Egyptian culture and landscape.
A panel of seven judges was charged with identifying the best photographs from the nearly 400 submissions. The diverse panel included photographer Randa Shaath, renowned Egyptian writer Alaa el-Aswani, and famous director Mohamed Khan.

“The idea was to get a variety of contrasting views involved in the selection process,” says Alaa el-Aswany, a lover of photography himself.

Judging took place behind closed doors at a small Marriott conference room. The judges sifted through the bulk of the photos to identify the best 30, which will be published in a catalogue to be widely distributed, and also exhibited in a Cairo gallery in December.
Of these thirty, the judges had to also select 12 to be included in the 2010 calendar of the EC Delegation in Egypt, and a final two for first and second place.

The selection process varied, but was largely based on each photo receiving four out of seven votes to be disqualified. Khan was particularly keen at humorously voting away photographs.

The loudest boos were amiably howled at photos that failed to show any real contrast, or showed it too directly or vulgarly. “But there is an even lesser class of photos than those,” says el-Aswany, “and they were the photos that captured stereotypical images, such as the poor street child and so on.”

Most judges agreed with Khan, when he said half way through the selection process, “I don’t like the exploitation of the poor” in photography competitions.
On the other hand, Shaath, who was one of the judges of last year’s competition, suggested this year’s theme was more difficult for the photographers and judges. (Last year’s theme was “Egypt.”)

The winners are expected to be announced by the end of October. First prize is 1000 Euros and second prize is a digital SLR camera.

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