2020 May 07

Bassam Allam

An Egyptian photographer and architect who explores the limits of perception.

Photography is an important medium for architects, and it is deeply rooted in their work. One example of this is Bassam Allam, an Egyptian architect and photographer working in Germany.

This is an excerpt. Find the whole article inside our third issue.

Words Francis H. Dowell
Photography Manuel Nieberle for This Orient, Vol. 3

Allam’s photographic work can be described as ‘ mysterious’, a key element for him. Mystery is a ‘pillar’ of his work: ‘It is incredibly important’. This style and mentality evolved over time and is still a part of him. When the beholder looks at his images, he should leave with questions, or at least be left thinking for a long time afterwards.
At the beginning of his photographic path, Allam read a lot theory by surrealists like André Breton or later Man Ray, both of whose influence has marked Allam’s work and style of photography. He is currently reading C. G. Jung’s theoretical writings on symbolism and alchemy. Jung’s words have helped Allam to better understand why he does things as he does, why he has chosen certain paths in life, and what he had worked on in the past.

Bassam told me that he recently visited temples in Egypt together with his father. ‘All those temples are full of symbols always with a deeper meaning’. This experience obviously impressed him, as he is clearly delighted when recounting this experience, finding a connection between the theories of his beloved artists and his own roots.

‘I enjoy every kind of contradiction, like conscious/subconscious or sunshine/moon. I find these encounters fascinating’

Allam is someone you definitely can’t put into a box. He is comfortable borrowing elements that he likes and believes in. He is on a journey, a discovery with himself and, hence, also his work. ‘I enjoy every kind of contradiction, like conscious/subconscious or sunshine/moon. I find these encounters fascinating’. Allam is someone who questions himself, his work, and Egyptian culture.

He is very active in Egypt, seeking to empower young photographers by giving workshops and holding lectures.
The Egypt autodidact switches often between architecture and photography. When he needs more creative freedom and is free from his usual nine-to-six office job, he grabs his camera, books a train ticket to Berlin, and leaves Munich for a couple of months. In the future he wants to work more as a photographer, but will definitely not forget his architectural roots. ‘Maybe I will work as an architect after that experience again’.

Find the whole article inside Vol.3 of This Orient “The Greater Middle East”. Find the issue here in our store.