2019-05-21 09:26:19date was

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  • Ghost Cars of Cairo: New Steve Double Exhibition Romanticises the City’s Abandoned Cars


    It looks like May is shaping up to be quite the photography month, with exciting exhibits opening up around the capital, and if you’re a fan of vintage cars and love yourself a piece of Cairo nostalgia, then this photography exhibition is definitely up your alley. Ghost Cars of Cairo is put together by acclaimed British photographer, Steve Double, who’s worked for over 25 years in photography and has an intimidating portfolio, having photographed pretty much all our favourite music icons like Nirvana, Bjork, the Beastie Boys and Thom York.

    A resident of Cairo since 2010, Double also co-runs the popular yoga space Osana Family Wellness, and continues to dabble in his favourite art form when he’s not busy doing headstands and running a thriving business.

    Ghost Cars of Cairo consists of 70 prints organised in sets of five, showing abandoned and vintage cars on the streets of Cairo. The prints are accompanied by audio recordings of the artist’s friends discussing their memories of cars in English, Arabic, Italian and Spanish.

    The show launches at Maadi’s Arcade Gallery on May 3rd at 7PM, and runs until May 31, opening daily from 11AM-9PM except Fridays (by appointment only).

    We sat down with the artist to discover his inspirations behind this exciting solo project.  

    So, what inspired you to photograph abandoned cars around Cairo?

    In the UK, [where I was born and raised], you can’t abandon a car on the streets, so it was completely unique for me in Cairo so to see them rotting on the street.  Cars are such fascinating things in our culture: when we ask people, what is the invention that has changed the world, they often say the internal combustion engine; it has changed the world for good and for bad.

    What’s fascinating about cars is that people invest so much in them as status symbols, and people view their own worth in society by the car that they drive. Because you have built-in obsolescence in these vehicles, you eventually sell them to upgrade for a newer model; so, they pass down the chain, until they’re barely running. They were once seen as totems of power, then they end up abandoned. That’s why I asked my friends to send me their memories of cars and their thoughts. Someone wrote about being a kid and sitting in the back of the car and watching the stars; another spoke about proposing to his wife in his car and others wrote about having car accidents. So, these will be 55 different stories on audio recordings playing during the show.

    How do you think your perspective as a Brit is different to Egyptians when it comes to looking at old cars?

    As I said, seeing these vehicles decaying on the streets is not something any Brit would be used to… it just doesn’t happen in the UK.  Visually, when they rot and deteriorate they form a kind of beauty that’s different to when they’re brand new out of the showroom. I love how nature takes its course and they start to break down, and people write messages in the dirt on the windows, or you find stuff left on the dashboard [from a previous owner]: I find beauty in all these things.

    It sounds like there’s a correlation between these decaying cars and Cairo. Did you intend to show that?

    I can certainly see a connection between the cars and Cairo as a centuries-old city with layers upon layers, but it wasn’t a conscious correlation. It was more of just an aesthetic and slightly psychological interest in the motorcar and how it changes, and its memories wrapped up inside it. Everyone has a car memory, even people who don’t own cars have a car memory.

    Of all the cars you’ve photographed, which one is your favourite?

    I’ve got a really soft spot for the Galaxie 500; it’s a big American car – almost like a boat – from the sixties, and I think [my fondness is] partly because of its name. A friend of mine from San Francisco wrote about proposing to his wife in a Galaxie 500. The one I photographed has a sticker in the back that says US Mail, Post Police Officer, [which means that] somehow it got shipped over here from the US and you can still see it on the street.

    Once upon a time, it was a work of automobile art, and now when you look at it, it doesn’t look special, but if you isolate parts of it with photographs; the details are fascinating and you find that the car emits a different kind of beauty.

    For more information, visit the exhibition’s Facebook event page. Arcade Gallery is located on 25, Orabi Street, Maadi. For more information, visit their Facebook page

    By Samar El Shams