Zachary Prong: “Young men accused me of being an American spy”

I made these photos in Cairo during the summer of 2015. The news coming out of Egypt at that time was mostly violent; “Car bomb attack kills Egypt’s top public prosecutor”, “Islamic State ‘behind blast’ at Italian consulate in Cairo”, “Croatian hostage beheaded”, “Deadly attacks hit Egypt’s Sinai”. I didn’t capture the facts of these events but they loomed large over how I experienced the city.160821-cairo11

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I spent most of my time wandering from neighborhood to neighborhood speaking with whomever I was able to. I met an English teacher in Manshiyat Naser who eagerly asked me how excited Canadians were about the new Suez Canal Sisi had just built. A group of young men in El Doweiqa, a neighborhood leveled by rock fall in 2008, accused me of being an American spy and threatened to kill me. An engineering student I befriended explained to me over dinner how the treachery of the Jews was well documented by the Quran.

In between these encounters I took photos. Although I wasn’t working with purpose I can now see hints of the decay, anxiety and confusion I sensed during my wanderings. Beyond that I struggle to ascribe them with much meaning. They are simply impressions of the city as I experienced it.

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I’m a photographer currently based in Canada. I started taking photos a few years ago when I was a university student studying in China. I found that I was better with a camera than I was with words so decided to pursue a diploma in photojournalism. I’m currently working on two long-term projects – one here at home and another in Afghanistan. More of my work can be seen on zacharyprong.com

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