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Egyptian Fashion Photographer Batool Al Daawi on Conformity and Life

Batool Al Daawi has gone where few women have gone before, breaking into a male-dominated fashion photography industry. And she's doing it with plenty of sass and style. In this week's Drawing Board we meet the little girl with the big images...

The fashion and creative photography industry in Cairo has long been a boy’s club, dominated by a small number of high-profile names which ad agencies and lifestyle magazines have come to depend on. And when the barriers to entry for fresh, young, talent are high, chances are that creativity will struggle to flourish.  And so – a few notable exceptions aside – many of these testosterone-fuelled photographers have been producing the same sort of traditionally stylised work for years – high on Photoshop and low on originality. 

One Egyptian girl has decided to buck the trend. In 2012 Batool Al Daawi boldly set up her own photography and creative agency called Blow! and set about doing cutting-edge high-concept work, first for close friends in the media industry and eventually for big name brands.  She’s since been called upon by a number of international digital and print publications including Fashionising.com (London), The Storm Magazine (Germany), TrendHunter.com (Canada), MiddleEast-Fashion.com, and last but certainly not least our own sister site GreaterThanFashion.com for whom she shot the controversial Ikhipster shoot

"Beautiful, Dirty, Rich"

When did you first pick up a camera?

My father used to get me cameras when I was very young and I used to play around with his Polaroids all the time. I have a lot of memories of taking pictures when I was really young so it's hard to remember the first.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in photography?

I love photography and I wanted to do something that I'm passionate about and not waste my life sitting on a desk. I tried a desk job and I couldn't tolerate it more than six months. It depressed me. I'd rather work nonstop for days than go to a 9 to 5 job that I don't like. 

And why fashion photography?

I've always wanted to be a fashion designer and an artist, but I fell in love with filmmaking and photography more. Fashion photography is just such a creative process. There’s a concept, story, lighting, designs, makeup, hair – just so much. It’s not just about a beautiful girl wearing a nice outfit.  It's the only genre of photography where I can combine my love for art, filmmaking, fashion and photography in one thing.

What was your first paid assignment?

It was an outdoor campaign for Al Watany Bank Egypt.

Where does the main inspiration for your work come from?

Everything! Traveling or looking at random people in the street inspire. Nature, architecture, art, the sea, movies, other artists' work… so much! 

"Faded"

What camera and lenses do you use?

Canon 5D mark II and canon 550 D. I use different kinds of lenses depending on what I'm shooting and what I need. 

Who are your favorite fashion photographers of all time?

Irving Penn, Paolo Roversi, Mario Sorrenti, Mert & Marcus, David Lachapelle.

Are there any other Egyptian photographers that you really admire?

Toufic Araman

What's the weirdest thing that's ever happened during one of your shoots?

A lot!  Falling off the stairs and breaking a leg, standing on the edge of a rooftop 15 floors high with no fence, getting on a forklift crane 27 meters high for almost an hour to get a shot. It's always crazy!

 

Sirin Arafa - Quechua Summer Collection photographed by Blow!

If you could shoot any model in the world, who would it be?

Freja Beha.

Everything in life is impermanent, fleeting; does any part of you feel that photography is a lie?

Yes! Nowadays most commercial photography is – especially in the beauty and fashion industries. For example most models' pictures and ads when they're over retouched are a lie. Photoshop is just a big fat lie. So I think edited pictures are a lie.

What tips do you have for aspiring photographers?

Keep learning till the last minute,.Seize every opportunity. Learn from your mistakes. Be original. Get inspired but never copy others' work and always always back up your work.

What are you up to these days?

I'm currently in New York working on some projects and taking some filmmaking and photography courses.

Find out more about Batool on her fanpage here  and follow her on Twitter here.