Bassam Allam is a 29-year-old Egyptian creative, specializing in fashion and portrait photography. His style often blends a surreal, cinematic feel and he uses a fine-art approach to "reflect and emphasize the model's raw self and emotions".
Bassam had two images shortlisted in the Open competition of the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards and was also revealed as the Egyptian National Award winner. He holds a bachelor in Architecture and a master in Sustainable Architecture. He is living and working between Munich, Berlin and his hometown Cairo.
Hi Bassam. Thanks for taking the time to chat. Please introduce yourself and your photography
Thank you for having me. My name is Bassam Allam, I'm a 29-year-old creative specializing in fashion and fine-art portrait photography. I have a bachelor in Architecture and a master in Sustainable Architecture. Both these professional fields, which are rich with ratios, geometric forms, and observations, along with my frequent travels, shaped my autodidactic photographic journey and perception of the human character.
My photography is a mix between surreal art, film noir and high end fashion, warm with a lot of sunlight, shadows and reflections. It expresses and captures my subject’s emotions through contemporary portraiture, or sometimes builds conceptual pieces that challenge the human perception of reality.
Why photography? What does the medium mean to you? How did you get started?
Photography feels like the most natural way for me to express my vision of the world, I can realize my ideas and achieve results instantly. Right now the medium is the main output for my thoughts. My background as an architect and my general interest in art had a big part in it, I love creating. The surrealists were such an inspiration to me; Man Ray for example, his work pushed me to try and create my own art. One day I found my dad's old camera and decided to try it out, and that was it; Through photography, I was able to execute my ideas exactly the way I see them in my head, I haven't stopped taking pictures since.
Tell us more about your successful images in the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards
'Portrait of Adima' - I met Adima that day at the English garden in Munich, we went for a walk until we found a location next to the river which inspired me. It was around midday so the sun was very harsh, not an ideal time to shoot but for me, it was a chance to experiment with light settings. My goal was to create a warm feeling that resonates with the forest like atmosphere at that spot. After trying out many reflections this portrait was produced using natural daylight.
'Through the Glass' - This was an experiment I made on set while shooting a fashion editorial. We were going outside of the building and I saw the light reflect on the glass door. I decided to place my model behind it and reflect additional light on her face/ eyes. After a few trials I achieved that portrait, it looked like a painting, especially with the sparkle in the eyes.
You've created a style in your work that resonates with each image. What advice would you give to young fashion/fine-art photographers hoping to create a style of their own?
I would advise them to learn about themselves, about their field, about everything that inspires them, visit exhibitions, read more books, experience life and let it flow in their work and their unique personality will reflect in their photographs.
There is often a surreal edge to your images - is this deliberate? How do you balance this into your commercial and personal work?
The surreal edge in my work is just a mirror of how I see the world. I believe that the human mind is always curious for mystery, what is not seen, what is seen but not yet understood; I try to unveil this mystery in my work, show a different perspective of what is already there.
I approach both commercial and personal work with the same mindset, only with my commercial work I set a more specific focus which is highly influenced by what I'm shooting and why I'm shooting it with the goal of portraying it in the best way.
Talk us through how you approach your portrait photography. What do you think it is that makes great portraiture?
I approach my portrait photography very naturally, I see a portrait as if it is a scene from a movie, uninfluenced by my presence yet reflecting my vision. That's the question every photographer is asking I guess; for me, a great portrait is one where the viewer feels they were present in the moment, truly present. A portrait that expresses and resonates with an emotion inside of them, one that makes them wonder what was happening, before, during and after that moment.
Where in the world are you and what's next for you?
I am currently in Munich working on new projects. In the next weeks, I will travel to Cairo and Berlin, to do diverse work with actors, singers, and fashion designers. I am also working on my new personal series about polarity, creation, and existence, part of my mystery theatre series.