Photo essay by Egyptian documentary photographer Mohamed Mahdy
16 February - 17 March 2022
The Photographic Gallery in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication presents the first of a series of exhibitions dedicated to the theme of environmental photography. Moon Dust, a photo essay by Egyptian documentary photographer Mohamed Mahdy as he captures close up an Egyptian community’s struggle against devastating air pollution.
Moon Dust tells the story of Wadi ElQamar, a residential neighborhood in western Alexandria located less than a mile away from the Alexandria Portland Cement Company. The housing area lies directly in the path of the cement factory’s emission and toxic dust blankets the homes of nearly half of its residents, leading to chronic respiratory diseases and other health issues for the community.
In this visual storytelling project, the camera looks at the lives of the people of Wadi ElQamar better than words ever can. Mahdy’s series of black & white landscape photographs capture the gigantic structure lurking in the background from multiple locations: streets, alleys, playgrounds and through the windows from inside houses. In other instances, the factory is chosen as the backdrop for family portraits forming striking compositions. The photographic project is completed by a series of candid portraits of residents through layers of dust accumulated on windows.
Wadi ElQamar neighborhood was built 20 years before the factory opened and its residents have tried to call attention to the problem (for nearly 10 years) by repeatedly filing complaints to the Ministry of Environment. In 2018 Mahdy exhibited the project in the Kodak Passage in Downtown Cairo and following ensuing media attention and pressure, the factory has installed filters that slightly imrove the situation for the residents.
The photographs on view at the exhibition are reproductions of limited edition photographs that are for sale, and whose proceeds fund the medical expenses of Wadi ElQamar community to this day.
About the Photographer
Mohamed Mahdy (Egypt, born in 1996) is a documentary photographer and filmmaker based in Alexandria. Mahdy’s work concentrates on the buried and unseen communities of Egypt. He believes that by immersing himself in disparate communities and revealing their stories, he is able to permanently place them within the context of the larger community. Since 2013, Mahdy has been awarded several grants, scholarships and awards and has taken part in exhibitions within the Middle East and beyond. In 2018, he was named by the NY Times Lens blog as one of 12 emerging photographers to know. In 2021, he was awarded the Magnum Foundation Photography and Social Justice Fellowship and is currently one of Sony’s ambassadors.
Photography as Activism: Exhibition talk with Mohamed Mahdy
Moon Dust exhibition, held at The Photographic Gallery, 16 Feb - 17 March 2022. Moon Dust is a photo essay by Egyptian documentary photographer Mohamed Mahdy as he captures close up an Egyptian community’s struggle against devastating air pollution. Watch on YouTube