Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I shot my first ever Sunday story for the Los Angeles Times about the ways the decline of the U.S. dollar is affecting people all around the world. I was nervous--not a big surprise--but it turned out pretty good. The paper used six of my photos in a slide show on the website and two in the newspaper, including one on the cover.

The assignment was to photograph a Cairo market. Here are a few of my favorite images:

The LA Times Cairo bureau chief, Jeff Fleishman, decided we should go to a market in the Hadayek al-Qobba neighborhood at 10:30 a.m. However, my buddy and mentor Max advised me to get up early and shoot something on my own. Of course he was right. Always listen to Max, he's the bomb. So I hailed a taxi at 7 a.m. and headed for the market in Imbaba.

Caged chickens in the morning will be chickens on a plate by supper time.

The taxi driver who took me to Imbaba got out and walked through the market with me, which was extremely helpful. Without my asking him to, he automatically did damage control and answered people's questions about why I was there with my big ole camera. Also, I covered my hair and neck with my handy-dandy scarf. Not that it helped me blend in, but at least it was a signal that I was trying to be modest, and stop staring at me, damnit! The scarf actually does help me work.

A vendor dunks a freshly-dead chicken in a vat of bloody water in Hadayek al-Qobba.

The market in Hadayek al-Qobba was much smaller than the one in Imbaba and people became suspicious of me and my big ole camera rather quickly. Cairo is such a funky place to shoot. So far I haven't been able to spend a lot of time shooting in one place. Some people are friendly, but often they tend to get really agitated, even when I'm shooting something as seemingly innocuous as a public market. Sometimes they'll be friendly at the beginning, but if I stay too long they get nervous.

I was sooooooooo glad I already had some images in the bag from my morning in Imbaba.

A man sells limes from the ground at the Imbaba market.

The market in Imbaba was huge and I walked through it twice. Some people who were friendly the first time around weren't on the second, and some people, like the guy selling limes, who didn't want to be photographed the first time I walked by, decided I wasn't so bad and that I could take their picture this time.

A woman sorts pigeons for sale in Imbaba. Yes people eat pigeons in Egypt. They also like bunnies.

A vendor in Imbaba waits for customers next to scales, plastic bags and a calculator in his potato stand.

I have to say overall that people in Imbaba seemed more open and friendly than the people shopping in Hadayek al-Qobba. They were more likely to approach me saying, "Tisawwarina?" (You photograph us?) and smile. I don't know why. Max wondered whether the time of day had anything to do with it--the people in Imbaba perhaps not quite awake so early in the morning? Maybe Imbaba, located much closer to downtown, receives more foreign visitors than Hadayek al-Qobba, which is on the far northern outskirts of the city? Who knows? Egypt is still quite a mystery.

Layla Youssef sorts through tomatoes in the Hadayek al-Qobba market. She and her husband survive on a $127-a-month pension.

Prices on everything from cheese to laundry detergent have doubled and tripled in the past several months. The majority of Egyptians struggle to get by as it is. This country is really in the midst of a major economic crisis.

Yes, I somehow found the man smoking his morning sheesha from behind his apples in Imbaba.

I didn't ask him, but I wonder if the sheesha was apple-flavored.


fishwife said...

Congrats on the LA Times assignment Holly! Really great shots again, of course!

Just got back from the Cabinets in MT -- still snow & frozen over at St. Paul Lake I guess, if you can believe it, it's June 27th!!!

Frank P said...

The girl with the money in her mouth--excellent! The market umbrellas in the early morning light--super! Mom

Kevin Taylor said...

Kudos to you, Holly P!
I have visited your blog a time or two since I've learned of its existence in recent months. Very fine stuff.
Drop me a line some time, I'd love to say hi.