Photography has been a popular hobby and profession among Egyptians for years, however, customers became more meticulous when deciding on who they should hire.
Hossam Atef Farouk, the photographer behind “Antikka Photography”, was among those who survived the filtration process. Despite his young age of 23, Farouk managed to position himself as one of the most successful photographers in the market. He went from capturing random moments that went viral, like the smiling camel selfie and the “Spiderman in Egypt” series, to photographing well-known artists and establishing his own studio and office.
What makes “Antikka” stand out the most is the free spirit of the young man behind the lens that is portrayed in every photo. Farouk captures images, usually of people, that trigger strong emotions, and he manages to find beauty in everything he sees.
We talked to Farouk to understand more about how he manages to create these moving, inspirational photographs.
What did you do before getting into photography?
I am a person who does not settle down easily, and I get bored very quickly. I played chess for four years and became a national champion before my interests shifted to fitness and nutrition. Taking several courses at Gold’s Gym Academy, I studied fitness and massage and then moved on to work as a masseur in Sharm El Sheikh for a year. However, I came to the conclusion that it was not the job for me.
Upon returning to Cairo, my interest in photography was sparked and I fell in love with it instantly. It was a challenge to buy an expensive professional camera and the needed equipment at the time, and so I had to work as a waiter for months, and as a cashier for several more, just to get enough money to afford them.
At the beginning, was photography just another hobby you were trying out?
Not exactly. I remember when I was a kid, I had a vivid imagination and I would always picture different image layouts and designs with various backgrounds and sceneries. As I grew older, I found pleasure in playing around with designs and colors, and so I believe photography was a passion of mine from early on. Nevertheless, I never thought that it would be my career one day, or that I would be recognized as a professional photographer.
Do you remember the first picture you took?
As far as I can remember, it was a picture of my cousin at the Cairo Citadel, and it was absolutely terrible! My first contact with a camera was when my uncle came to visit from abroad and let me try his professional one. I loved how I was able to capture a moment and document it the way I saw it.
Have you received any official training?
I did a lot photography for several journalistic publications as well as briefly training at a small studio near my house. Tagging along with various wedding photographers also helped me learn how a professional photographer should act and talk during such events.
Were you able to identify your favorite type of photography right away?
Back then, I was willing to shoot anything. I would go to weddings on my own, uninvited, and would shoot the whole thing for free,
Later on in my career, however, I developed more of an interest in fine art photography. I can do fashion and commercial shoots as well, but it has to be very organized with a storyboard ready. What I do not enjoy is covering events and taking group photos.
What were the best and worst experiences that you got out of your training period?
The best was the knowledge I gained. The worst was having all my equipment stolen while I was covering some clashes in Ramses.
The newspaper I worked for did not believe my story back then, so I found myself back to where I started; searching for jobs to gather enough money for a new camera.
Why the name “Antikka”?
“Antikka” is the name of a clothing store I used to work at, so my friends started calling me by it and it never changed. It has nothing to do with my photography or with antiques in general.
Your work has a unique appeal: it is raw and triggers people’s emotions. Do you do that intentionally or is it just how you portray images?
I do not believe that I do it on purpose, but rather it is just the way I see my surroundings. I try my best to stay up-to-date with the recent photography-related creations around the world and I constantly search for inspirations to develop my work. With time, my mind and eyes got used to a certain standard and style, which is reflected in my photographs.
What inspires you the most?
I do not normally contemplate about photo shoots I want to do, but in general, ‘anime’ movies inspire me the most. They give me ideas for new projects.
How do you prepare for a photo session?
First, I get to know the model/s that will be featured in the shoot, and then decide on the time and place for it. I always have a meeting prior to the session with the model/s to make sure we are on the same page and to decide on the outfits as well.
Would you say you express yourself through photography?
It is not really about expressing myself, but it is rather about finding myself. I have tried working in many fields, but nothing was satisfactory enough for me, which was getting really frustrating until I got into photography. It is the only thing in my life that does not bore me as I feel like there is always something to explore.
What did photography teach you so far?
It helped me notice what I was not paying attention to. I have become very detail-oriented and observant of people and objects around me. Generally, I feel that it has made me love and enjoy life more. I would go out at five in the morning just to check the lighting and see reflections on people and on car windows.
Do you see things differently through the lens? Are you able to identify natural beauty, fake emotions, and so on?
Yes, I do! I do not know how, but everything becomes much clearer through the lens, and I can definitely see through the person I am photographing.
There are main indicators like body language and how they smile in front of the camera that allows me to immediately identify whether that person is acting natural or putting on an act. In case of the latter, I would know during the session that the pictures would not turn out as good as I would have hoped. People relate to the mood and spirit reflected in the photo, and so no matter how innovative the concept is, if the person I am photographing is being fake, it will show.
I believe that every person is beautiful in their own way, however, there are photographers who do not see the beauty in a certain person, and so their photos do not reflect it.
What are you most proud moments from your journey with photography so far?
I am proud of the fact that I just recently became an instructor and concluded my first workshop at “Beit El Sura”, an institution specialized in teaching and supporting young photographers. The results were displayed in an exhibition and it was great!
Also, at the start of my career, there were several photographers whom I considered as my idols, but now I am very proud to say that I surpassed them with my work and connections. My idols have become my fans!
What is your biggest ambition for the future?
I do not have a certain ambition, to be honest. I just hope that I can travel abroad to take courses instead of taking them online.