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Philipp Spalek November 7, 2012

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Egypt.

Tannery Worker. Cairo, Egypt 2010

Philipp Spalek (b. 1984, Germany) finished his masters in Middle Eastern Studies and Modern History in Germany in 2012. He had his first serious encounter with photography in 2010 when he worked as a press photographer for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk in Cairo. There he learned to speak fluent Arabic and feels addicted to the country since. His work has been published in Zenith, SpiegelOnline, Brand Eins & ZeitOnline. Over the last year he devoted his time to a project about the situation of Egyptian Copts after the revolution, which was awarded a first prize in the Reportage Category at Kolga Photo Festival in Georgia and won the Canon ProfiFoto Award in Germany. He is based in Berlin and Cairo

About the Photograph:

“I still remember that people used to move away from us in the Metro after we returned from taking pictures in the tanneries. Our smell really was obnoxious. But among those staring were people with nice leather jackets or leather handbags. They all seemed to have accusing looks on their faces. It was strange, but this made me want to go back even more and document the working conditions of those, who are not seen, but provide the luxury of our daily lives. When I first entered the tanner’s district, hidden behind Cairo’s old city walls, I was at the same time fascinated by the friendliness of the people and shocked by their working conditions. People were working in a knee deep soup of skin leftovers and smelling flesh. Young men were carrying skin on their head through dark cellars. Children were dragging skin through the burning heat. Transport was organized with horse carts. I felt like having arrived in a time bubble. Some of the tanneries haven’t modernized their technology for decades or even a century. Workers only rely on their muscle power and don’t earn more than a couple of pounds a day”