Search for content, post, videos

Denis Dailleux –A love affair with Egypt


Denis Dailleux’s new book Impressions d’Egypte is a dream-like portrait of the country he has been intimately involved with since 1992. “I fell in love in Egypt, with Egypt” says Dailleux. “I discovered the pleasures of the oriental luxury, evenings on the banks of the Nile, the music and the smell of bay trees.”

True to his words, the images in the book read as though the photographer is completely in love – or at least lustfully infatuated – with each person, place or thing he photographs. The portraits are tender and Dailleux’s attachment to the country is evident.

“I remember perfectly my arrival at Cairo airport in 1992.” Dailleux recounts. “I discovered the city. I was bewildered at the presence of the porter – a Nubian who was wearing a white jellabiya and was standing in front of the hotel I was going to live in. Most shocking, there was a servant lying on the floor under a piece of furniture. The next day, I went up to the roof where the domestics live. I wanted to see them; I wanted to see how they lived.”

The beautiful light and painterly quality of Dailleux’s photographs draw easy parallels to Orientalist paintings, as do the French photographer’s apparent fetish for the ‘exotic’ North African people, dress and sceneries. Dailleux is an outsider looking in and no matter how much he understands or admires them, he can’t be one of them. To some extent, it is his view from the outside that shapes his images.

“I was faced with wise men, angels and the damned” Dailleux writes of his earlier Cairo images. “I discovered people, their houses and their work conditions. Workshops unbelievably harsh, foundries where a dozen workers were gathered in a tiny space; awful places. But I also discovered friendships as I have seldom known. They are dignified and proud.”

Just as the give and take of making portraits is a microcosm of a relationship, Impressions d’Egypte also has similar characteristics. “My previous books were monographic books, this one is a collaboration with a writer – Gilbert Sinoué. The choice of images was made with him. The text is non-fiction. Some of the pictures inspired the text, and others come to support the text. This is a two way relationship between words and pictures.”

Impressions d’Egypt is a romantic look at Dailleux’s adoptive country – he’s been living there for five years now after making yearly trips after his first. From historic Egypt to present day, the text and images tell a story neither could tell on their own, and not surprisingly, it is a love story.

Clint McLean

Impressions d’Egypte
Editeur : Editions de la Martinière (2011)
256 pages
Taille : 17 × 22,5 cm
ISBN :978-2-7324-4399-7

Create an account or log in to read more and see all pictures.

Install WebApp on iPhone
Install WebApp on Android