Photo project

Egyptian railway passengers in 19-year-old Ahmed Ashraf’s photo project

In 2012, Ahmed Ashraf boarded a train for the first time and immediately became interested in those who are forced to spend a quarter of their lives on the railways.

Ahmed Ashraf, 19 years old

Ahmed Ashraf is an Egyptian documentary photographer. He produced his first project “The Iron Way” in 2012. At present he is working on his second project, “Underexposure” which he is hoping to complete in two years from now. Admed’s works have been exhibited and published in Egypt, Lebanon and the USA.
What is the project about?

Three years ago I travelled by train for the first time. After that experience I wanted to tell the story of the human inside the train, not someone taking the train every now and then, but someone permanently and constantly using it.

Why is it important to document the issue?

Let me tell you something: everything in our life can be a photo project. Importance is a very subjective thing.

Who are the people in your project?

Ordinary people who spend a quarter of their every day just to to back and forth from work. Coming all the way from villages, cities and small towns.

Why did you decide to document this part of life in Egypt, what does it symbolise?

All these characters in my story are from outside the capital city of Cairo, like myself. I am from a small delta city north of Cairo called Mansoura. I had to commute to Cairo once a week by train and come back on the same day. The trip one way lasts for four hours, and the conditions on the train are really poor, so it must be a tedious experience for those who have to do it every day.

Why did you get interested in people who spend so much time in trains? Why not buses or some other public transportation?

The train is the most available and cheapest transport for those people. In normal transport people don’t waist so many hours and even years of their life.

What difficulties did you have while doing this project?

The most interesting thing is that I didn’t face any problems other than hardships of being on the third class train so long. In fact, I was really lucky.

What kind of problems do freelance photographers face in Egypt as compared to the Ukraine for example?

I think that problems with the security happen everywhere. They are the same for freelance photographers and filmmakers. Sometimes you are in danger even while shooting with a cell phone. Mahmoud Shawkan is a freelance journalist who got arrested for more than 600 days in August 2013 without any trial. No one is trying to help him because he is a freelancer and not very well known. Besides these problems there are other problems of course, concerning exhibitions and publishing.

Future plans?

By now I have finished about 90% of my “Underexposure” project, it will see the light very soon.

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