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IN CONVERSATION with Asmaa Waguih, Photojournalist, Egypt

Asmaa Waguih
Asmaa Waguih
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Asmaa Waguih is an independent photojournalist who is based in her home town of Cairo. She has over two decades of experience working with top agencies across the globe. She worked as a freelance reporter in Iraq for three years where she developed a love for pictures over words. Later she received several assignments that focused on the Arab world and the Islamic community, in such countries as Gaza, Iraq, and Pakistan. She worked for Reuters News Agency for eight years. She has extensively covered the major conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and the Arab Spring in Egypt.

Why did you choose to become a photojournalist?

I was a journalist/reporter for a while. I used to carry a film camera because I also liked photos and thought I needed to document what I saw.

Which photographer has inspired you most and why?

There’s no one in particular. I think many photographers were inspiring, especially if they have been to many places I’m interested in. On top of my head now will be Paula Bronstein; her work from Afghanistan was very inspiring because, at that time, I was dreaming of going there. I liked that a woman was there documenting it.

What has been your most challenging story?

Again it’s hard to say which one is more challenging than the others, but many stories have been quite challenging. But one thing that may sound funny, Egypt, my country, has always been challenging. I find it the most difficult place sometimes, maybe when you’re from the same country you need to explain a lot why you’re taking photos instead of being a curious outsider. Some easy photos I took seem like I’m stealing something, like a photo for a busy, crowded train, where it’s prohibited to take pictures. People could get angry at you anytime, and you cannot say, “sorry guys.” I’m from abroad, and this honestly looks interesting!

And are your most memorable stories?

Again there are a lot of memories, but one funny thing is that I went to Afghanistan with Reuters twice, where I was embedded with US marines. I had gone with them for a few weeks in Helmand in patrols. Usually, as a woman, I’d find it more challenging to go to the loo if necessary behind some trees, etc., like I never saw it difficult to hide when they stopped to search locals, etc. But once, we were going for a long patrol, and a large number of marines and local Afghan army members were there. Somehow they never stopped walking, and the place was so open that I could not hide when I had to ask a marine member for help, so he asked the guys in the front to stop, and as a journalist, we were ordered to be in the middle of the patrol for safety. I found a place between a couple of rocks and was thinking if anything happens at that time or we get fired at how this loo could affect the news!

How would you describe your style of work? What do your photographs try to convey?

Honestly, my style is straightforward and natural as I try to convey the event/news/story, whatever I’m trying to shoot.

What do you enjoy the most about your work? And what do you find the most challenging?

I think I’m trying to enjoy the challenge most of the time. It’s hard to take photos because of any reasons ( political, social, military, whatever, or just simply personal), so the good thing is that whatever the challenge is, you know you’re trying to get the most out of it and you enjoy getting whatever picture possible.

Which camera and lenses do you use? Which are your favorites?

I don’t care about camera types. I’ve been using Canon for a long time, I might change it, but in all cases, all cameras would be fine if they’re in good shape. I like the 35 mm lens the most, but I think many lenses are good as well.

Which social media platforms do you often use(please share links)? How have they helped you?

I wouldn’t say I like social media very much. Call me old school or old fashion, but I want to take photos and enjoy my life in the shade. I’m not sure if social media have helped me since I don’t use them except hardly. My Instagram, though, is @asmaawaguih, but I don’t post much!

How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired?

I don’t make any effort to do so, sometimes I AM motivated, and sometimes I am NOT motivated.

What are the key skills a photojournalist should have?

I guess to be a good “photographer” and a good “journalist.”

What does ethical photojournalism mean to you?

It means “no setups,” “no taking photos of people by force,” and, of course, “not to endanger people by any means for your photo.”

What advice would you give aspiring women photojournalists?

Be yourself, not use the idea that you’re a woman to take more or less.

Portfolio of Work

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by those interviewed by the Danish Siddiqui Foundation, including all program participants, are solely their own current opinions regarding events and are based on their own perspectives and opinions. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Danish Siddiqui Foundation, or the companies with which any program participants/interviewees are, or maybe, affiliated.