Born and raised in Egypt in the 90ies and exposed to German and Western Europe aesthetics in his youth, Mahmoud El-Beleehy- or Moe – as friends call him, is a photographer with a soft spot for storytelling. Regardless of style, from commercial to food or portraits, his eye is set to capture the narrative like no one is watching, albeit, in reality, he is paying attention to every single tinny detail that makes everything look so naturally perfect. Earlier this year, #MEALCHEMY, the personal branding platform and @MO4Network, the remarkable Cairo-born creative agency, teamed up to build up the #LadiesFirst Egypt portraits portfolio, in DownTown Cairo retina-catching scenery. Moe, as one of the very talented MO4 people, was behind the camera. Let’s dive into his world.
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR SOUL SING? WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
Being around my family and best friends. They mean a lot to me, making or just seeing them happy is like my ultimate happiness. Also when putting an effort into something really big and it comes out really as expected or better! I love those moments.
A CHILDHOOD STORY THAT ANNOUNCED THE CREATIVE PERSON YOU ARE TODAY
I was really young and I was on a school trip to the Pyramids. I asked my dad to give me his film camera and he did. Back then I had no clue about photography or how cameras function. I took a lot of photos but they never looked like I expected and my dad mocked me for the photos I took. It wasn’t really mocking, he just made fun of it because they didn’t come out as I saw them in real life. That moment made me get focused and start exploring photography. I dedicated all my time to teach myself how to take better photos and prove to my family it was never a mistake, it was just the beginning of my journey.
BEST CONTEXT EVER FOR INSPIRATION
“Der Liebe Gott steckt im Detail.” It means God is in the details. This one means a lot to me, I guess it explains itself pretty well. And when we talk about art, it is all about the little tiny details which usually don’t get noticed by everyone. Also, there is this saying by the great photographer Ansel Adams „You don’t take a photograph, you make it”.
THE PROJECT YOU LOVED MOST
A food photography editorial project which I made at home with my flatmate out of nowhere. And it was even made with expired materials! The idea here was about how pasta is made, the simplicity of mixing flour and eggs.
THE PROJECT OTHERS LOVED MOST
One of the projects which I really loved and others loved the most is called “Against the odds”. It was done in 2012, right before joining the army to do my military service, but there are voices inclining towards a Schweppes series. Here they are.
THE BEST THING ABOUT EGYPTIAN CREATIVITY
Egyptians are eager to develop and get better. I guess most of the Egyptian creative community is self-taught. They taught themselves everything on their own and that actually shows how passionate are they toward what they are actually doing!
BEST STATEMENT OF EGYPTIAN HUMOR
Egyptians have a great sense of humor. New trends and new jokes come up every day. It is just too hard to pick up one because they are a lot and we are sarcastic by nature.
ADVICE FOR INTERNATIONAL HEADHUNTERS, RELATED TO EGYPTIAN CREATIVES
Most of the Egyptian creative community is made up of self-taught artists. They didn’t study it in a university nor do they have a university certificate. They worked on themselves until their work spoke. That’s where they should be looking.
BEST PLACE IN CAIRO
Downtown. Old and vintage places amaze me. I just love the old architecture and how they built/designed this, worked out to the tiniest details. It just has a wonderful spirit which you cannot find anywhere else in Cairo. Also, you can find everything you are looking for there, as it is very diverse.
BEST PLACE IN EGYPT
Siwa oasis and Sinai! Such beautiful nature and relaxing spots where you can clear your head and relax.
MOST DISTURBING CLICHÉ ABOUT EGYPT, IN THE MEDIA OUTLETS OF THE WORLD
That we still live in the desert in tents and that we ride camels to work? Haha, lots of people still believe that we do! They think that we are not as civilized as them.
EGYPT SHOULD BE KNOWN FOR:
Delicious food! Here in Egypt, we have lots and lots of food varieties and each and everyone is simply awesome!
YOUR VIEWS ON SPIRITUALITY
I believe spirituality is about loving yourself and other people, helping other people, and looking at things from a very different perspective.
YOUR VIEWS ON MONEY
Money is important to keep your life going, but it’s not the most important thing, because money comes and goes. I mean, we shouldn’t be looking after money, but after ourselves, and then money will follow.
AN INSPIRATION SOURCE YOU RECOMMEND FOR A YOUNG CREATIVE
They should always keep working on themselves. They should never settle. “Dream big then do it” and even if they reach what they were dreaming about, they should never stop dreaming and setting other new goals to keep working on themselves. You should never stop learning and developing the person you are today, not who you were yesterday. Don’t ever be afraid of your failure. “If you have never failed, you have never lived”.
AN EGYPT BASED FEMALE TALENT THAT DESERVES TO BE PROMOTED AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, AS EXPONENT OF LOCAL CREATIVE SPIRIT
Noha and Dina Bahr! They are sisters who are really great and creative illustrators and art directors.