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Photopia aspires to be Cairo hub for photographers

In an alley off a Korba side street, Photopia, a new venue that specializes in exhibiting and engaging the public with photography, opened this week in the heart of Heliopolis. The venue is a small, modern café and bookstore with beautiful photography decorating its walls and is also home to a professional studio, an equipment retailer, a gallery and a photography school.

Although interest in citizen photojournalism has increased in Egypt since the uprising began last year, many photographers — both professional and aspiring — still find Cairo a difficult place to obtain equipment, improve their skills, exhibit their work, or simply connect to a photography-loving community. Camera stores and photography courses are scattered throughout Cairo, with no one place to go for reliable, continuous instruction. Galleries are also generally unwilling to exhibit the work of new photographers and the growing community remains, for the most part, an online phenomenon.

To counter this, a group of enthusiastic photographers have come together to establish Photopia, an independent venue where all of the aforementioned, and more, are available to all those interested seven days a week.

“The vision is to create a photographer’s sanctuary,” says Rehab El Dalil, a professional photographer and the creative manager of Photopia. “A place where professionals and amateurs can edit photos, work together, hang out, learn from each other, present and exhibit their work, critique each other and form a photographic art community.”

Though Photopia had a soft opening in March, the official opening was Monday night. The venue is pretty much like any other modern, Westernized coffee shop around Cairo with wireless Internet, yet the focus is on photography, rather than coffee. To celebrate the official opening, a 10-day exhibition called “Travel Stories” was launched in juncture with the Sahara Safaris Club; every night until 8 August, amateur and professional photographers alike will display their work and host talks discussing the various voyages portrayed. Monday night featured amateur photographer, Mohamed Mabrouk and his photographs of Norway, which emphasize the beauty of ecotourism.

In addition to bringing amateur and professional photographers together under one roof, Dalil says Photopia also aims to “improve the current standard of photography in Egypt, and increase awareness of the scope of the precious art.”

Several courses are available at Photopia for aspiring photographers of various age and experience, with options for specializing in certain areas, like fashion or nature.

“The final goal is to create a platform where beginners can find everything they need in order to eventually become professionals, and professionals can refine and broaden the scope of their art, just like with any other field of interest,” adds Dalil.

"Travel Stories" can be seen until 8 August at Photopia, 15 al-Somal St., Korba, Heliopolis, Cairo.

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