“I used to subconsciously suppress my emotions. I guess growing up surrounded by people who were in denial and pain, made me want to be breezy and fun. There was nothing in my power at the time except for my sense of humour”, says Egyptian photographer Youssef Sherif before adding, “I had to find a way to vent out”.
This is how photography quickly proved to be his lifeline. It provided the 29-year-old with a form of therapy—a way to express himself and make his life meaningful.
But by photographing a myriad of subjects—whether naturally or more staged—, shooting has also been a means of documenting Egypt’s youth and the emotional pain and struggle faced by his community. “We have gotten used to imitating non-Arab cultures to the point where some of us are ashamed of our Arab blood”, he says, discussing how he wants to use his camera to elevate them.
Exploring concepts like identity, belonging, family loyalty and mental health, Sherif is definitely not one to shy away from complex ideas and feelings. With his art, he seeks to create empowering narratives around those whose stories have been swept under the rug.
Some might say that Arabs have regularly made the headlines but many aspects of the Arab youth experience have gone undocumented, and this is the type of visibility Sherif is looking to offer. His is clear: it’s time Egyptian culture finally gets celebrated.