The Depiction of Women in Egypt in 
Contemporary Photography

The representation of Arabs in Western Media is highly stereotypical. The generalization of Arabs and Muslims has been a deliberate and conscious strategy for stereotyping, despite the various geographical, cultural, lingual and religious differences. Both terms, Arab and Muslim, are negatively connotated and the negative stereotypes are mythologized through their persistent repetition. How can a more nuanced representation of Arabs be achieved?

Egyptian media, largely controlled by the state, praise the image of “the woman whose agency is always mediated through men, that is to say, she either sacrifices for her son or husband or for the country.” (1)

This study focuses on Egypt, as an example for an Arab country, and photography as a medium. We take a closer look at photographic series that deal explicitly with a topic related to womanhood in Egypt. This allows us to include diverse photographic approaches and move beyond the already much scrutinized mass media.

To build an archive of photos to work with, we first conducted research to get a broad overview of existing photographic projects. According to the following criteria we gathered 69 photographic projects: 

– that deal explicitly with women in Egypt
– by Egyptian and non-Egyptian photographers 
– Time span: 2008 – 2018 
– Series must consist of at least 3 photos 
– We consider every person a woman who considers herself as such, regardless of her sex 

For the data collection to be as inclusive as possible, we factored in the photographer’s gender and nationality in order to find out how they influence photographic work and its perception. 

Therefore the archive includes: 
→ 3 female Egyptian photographers 

    – Nariman El-Mofty: In a first, Bedouin women lead tours in Egypt’s Sinai
    – Heba Khalifa: Homemade
    – Lina Geoushy: Breadwinners 

→ 3 male Egyptian photographers 
    – Roger Anis: A Closet Full of Dreams
    – Sabry Khaled: Khokha, street for women
    – Mohamed Ali Eddin: Transgender In Egypt

→ 3 female non-Egyptian photographers 
    – Chloe Sharrock: The purest choice
    – Monia Lippi: Aswan Women
    – Amélie Losier: sayeda . women in egypt .

→ 2 male non-Egyptian photographers 
    – Denis Dailleux: Mother and Son
    – Gary Calton: Women suffer under Egypt's radical rule

In the archive you find the photographic series and additional information gathered in interviews to help understand each photographers approach and background. 

Based on the archive we selected a set of photos to understand the perception of these photos better. We therefore conducted workshops in Cairo in Winter 2020. To know more about our participatory image analysis take a look at our website.

(1) Shereen Abouelnaga, Women in Revolutionary Egypt – Gender and the new Geographics of Identity (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2016), 112.