Ahmed Mahmoud’s First Project/Artist Statement

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I have always been fascinated by the past, especially when it comes to locations such as old theaters, hotels, etc. where you manage to mingle with a variety of human characters – another field of interest for me. I look back at the past in search of inspiration when it comes to pretty much everything. I re-visit old music, black and white and silent films, and photographs of places during the 1920s-30s. So it’s obvious that in a way .. my work reflects the warmth, classiness, and elegance of the past with a modern take. Whether it is through photography or film, I try to showcase bits of the past through not just content, but through editing, etc. to make it look and feel old.

At the beginning, I planned on documenting bars in general as spaces with me as the person under scrutiny, but this changed after going to the first bar on the list suggested by my professor. What made me choose the Windsor Hotel Bar was its history, its location, and most importantly, the artist present there .. Wagdy, the bartender. The bar itself is over 100 years old, witnessing some of the most critical events throughout Egyptian history and being the location for some of them. The bartender, Wagdy, is over 70 years old and he spent the last 33 years as the bartender of the place. Seeing the bar, the studio, through the eyes of the artist, the bartender, was my aim from that moment.

Using photography and editing the photographs to give them a vintage look, then adding quotes using typewriter font came up after being influenced by PostSecret and others suggested by the professor such as Walid Raad who mixed photography and text commentary. At the last minute, I decided that I didn’t want to reveal Wagdy’s face until the film project and only have photos of the space and human figures with quotes by him from our discussions. This in fact emphasize my idea of seeing the space, the studio, through the artist’s eyes, the bartender.

The complexity of his work, dedication, and his appreciation of human relationships were quite touching and through using relevant photographs with quotes, I tried in a way to convey his thoughts.

Seeing the bartender’s bar, the studio, through his eyes is the main theme behind my work and it could be implemented on different spaces/studios with their own unique artists. My plan is to maybe try to take this forward after the course by trying to do something similar with other interesting characters with their spaces and see how it goes.

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