Many of us go about our days following the same routine; from home to work and back again. Distracted by our daily chores, we often fail to pay attention to life around us. At times we forget that we exist as human beings, and it is no wonder that we forget others exist as well. Young photographer Rehab Eldalil created the I Exist project to counteract this loss of memory.
The art of photography became Eldalil’s sanctuary. “Photography has always been my refuge. I developed my passion for art in childhood and I majored in photography in college. I am now a fulltime professional photographer since 2007 and a photography instructor since 2009,” she said.
“I created the I Exist project in 2012. The goal of this project is to support different causes around the country and to help people to be more socially aware and to put their energy into something useful. The project highlights different subjects and stories that are worth knowing about; either to inspire people or to call for help,” explained Eldalil.
After its conception the project expanded to include another initiative. “Care for a Smile is a simple idea; I stroll around the streets of Cairo hunting for people who have a positive message to share. [It can be] a positive quote, some advice or even a joke,” Eldalil said. She hopes that the photos she take of these messages will bring a smile on someone’s face.
Care for a Smile aims to counteract negativity. “A few months ago I noticed how people in Egypt- friends, family or people in the street – have become full of negative energy. I really wanted to do something about this,” said Eldalil. “I started wandering the streets and talking to random people, asking them to write something positive on a piece of paper and get their photo taken. I was trying to encourage people to be positive.”
Eldalil’s mission proved to be a difficult one: “Unfortunately I found out that asking for a positive sentiment was not very effective so I decided to make it a more general project that at the very least would allow people forget about their personal or political problems. I asked them to write a positive quote, state a blessing, or just a funny saying. ”
She asked random people to participate but not all responded positively. “People who were very welcoming were those often considered to belong to a lower socio-economic level. I have been rudely snubbed by people who supposedly belong to the ‘higher classes’ but thankfully almost 70% of the people I met were interested and very friendly,” said Eldalil.
When preparing a project Eldalil pays great attention to detail. “For I Exist – Care for a Smile my preparation mostly consisted of deciding on how to approach people and interest them to participate, being friendly and cooperative almost always does the job. It is an ongoing project so be prepared in case I run into you in the street,” said Eldalil. We consider ourselves warned.
“I am currently preparing my first I Exist exhibition, called Catherine Exists. It is a three-year photography project about the beautiful city of St Catherine in South Sinai. This project aims to present all angles of St Catherine, from the amazing landscapes and friendly locals to their struggle to survive,” Eldalil said.
Eldalil is a young photographer who has found an original way to involve her subjects in her artwork and entice them to collaborate with her in spreading a message she feels the world needs to hear. The resulting photographs do all that whilst being enjoyable to look at, and this bodes well for her upcoming exhibition.