I started my photography career in the early 1970s so I have thousands of slides and large and medium format transparencies in my archive. Every now and again I need to pull one out and scan one for some reason. Here are a few that I have pulled out from the box.
A year in Egypt
I spent a year in Egypt from 1978-1979. I went there as a tourist and stayed (much as I did five years later in Italy except I’m still here). I found a job as an art director and illustrator in Egypt’s first advertising agency to open after the Soviet period, Radar Advertising later taken over by Mccann-Erickson. I was paid the princely sum of 60 Egyptian pounds (about £50 sterling) a month. Given that a Stella beer cost one pound and my rent in Heliopolis was 15 pounds a month that did not leave much beer money.
A Trip to an Oasis
I shot these brightly dressed Bedou women in the Fayoum oasis in 1979. My friend was driving me in her Renault 5 which luckily had a sun-roof. I popped my head through and got just one shot before they turned, covered their faces and hurried shyly away. The film was Agfa slide which had a very warm hue compared with the coldish saturation of Ektachrome or the slight green in some circumstances of Kodachrome – not that any of this matters in the digital age.
Climbing the Pyramids
In the late 1970s you could still climb the Great Pyramid of Cheops for a small ‘fee’, or baksheesh, to the dragoman in his galabeya who stood guard at the base. I was informed by a resident that you should give a just a few piasters, no more than 25 – if you gave too much he would feel honour bound to guide you up to the top.
The flat summit has a heavy iron pyramid shaped mast placed there, quite why I have no idea, perhaps to give an idea of its original height. The stones had all been incised on every available surface with names. I have read that even in the 19th century the guides filled the graffiti with gesso so that the pyramid presumably did not get chiselled down to its foundations. I managed to get a blurry self timer pic by resting the camera on a stone.
I do not have a very good scanner for 35mm, the Epson 4990 is really designed for medium and large transparencies. That said, the dust on this slide was exceptionally sharp! I still use film occasionally with my old medium format cameras which still work as well as ever and give a fine high quality transparency or negative.
Running for our Lives
Cairo was an easy place to hate: huge, dirty, dusty, noisy, chaos incarnate – and that was in 1979 I imagine it is even worse now. At least it was very safe then, and full of hope. It was the time of Sadat. I left Cairo on Christmas day for lunch in Helwaan with a friend after which we set off for the Bent pyramid of Sneferu at Dahshur. I had read that inside were perfectly preserved beams left over from its construction.
But there was a problem – in those days it was in a military area. The only guard on the dirt road leading to the site was an old fellow wearing a scruffy galabeya – but he did carry a rifle. I said to my mate David, “If we amble along to that big sand dune we could probably cross behind it unseen, let’s try.” We did, and a shot rang out. We came back very humbled to be greeted by a torrent of Arabic. We thought, given his un-agressive demeanour, that he was essentially apologising, “I had no choice you understand?” We warmly shook hands, no hard feelings.
Next post: medium and large format transparencies or trannies as we called them.
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