Laura El Tantawy was born in England to Egyptian parents and grew up between Dammam in Saudi Arabia, the US and Cairo. After graduating in Journalism and political science from the University of Georgia she began her career as a staff photographer on papers in Milwaukee and Sarasota, Florida before turning freelance in 2005.
On January 25th 2011, after 20 years of being away, Laura returned to Cairo, hoping to rediscover a place of childhood memories and a sense of belonging. Whilst there, Laura found herself at the start of a revolution. Tahir Square was full of protesters and Laura became inspired by their courage to speak out and their energy. At this time Laura was working for a publishers and was unable to take pictures. She talks of her anguish and guilt of not recording the event to begin with, and then being torn between photographing or putting down her camera to join the protest. El Tantawy talks of the multi-cultural upbringing and the feeling of not quite fitting in completely with either culture. After producing her self published book ‘In The shadows of The Pyramids’ she does not have to confront the feeling of belonging anymore. ‘This book has brought personal closure and a sense of peace’ (Fotografia Magazine)
The inner turmoil she must have felt at the time of the revolution in Tahir Square is reflected in her pictures. There is high use of motion blur, shallow depth of field, reflections and out of focus imagery. This ‘breaking’ of the rules is evident in other projects undertaken by El Tantawy also such as The Veil and 9 Days In The Kingdom a project in Thailand showcasing the work of 55 photographers where she photographs the evocative riot of the Thai dancers.
In an interview with Michael Freeman in August 2014, El Tantawy talks of her style as being somewhere between documentary and fine art and of an ‘experimental style that is still evolving’.
‘I very much embrace the concept of being different and innovative. This is probably at the very core of the ‘look’ in my pictures’-(Freeman Interview August 2014).
I think Laura’s images create mood and emotion through her unconventional approach. I feel that she wants to engage with the viewer and portray how she feels about an event or subject. The nature of Laura’s blurred and vibrant photographs invite you to uncover the mystery and the suggested story within. I also view El Tantawy’s work with a sense of loss and disappointment for all the blurred images I’ve discarded and thrown away over the years!
Laura El Tantawy’s images from Tahir Square have been shortlisted for the prestigious 2016 Deutsche Borse Photography Prize.