Color of Ramadan: An Incredibly Difficult Photo Project

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All images by Amr Elshamy. Used with permission.

Photographer Amr Elshamy is from Egypt, and is a self taught artist used to do various forms of art like Digital art/Traditional art, photography and Filmmaking. The idea for the colors of Ramadan came playing with an old pen in a mug of water and watching the ink swirl around. While projects like this are usually done with high powered flashes and lots of patience, Amr tells us that for every 5,000 photos he shot, he only got around 10 that looked decent.

We talked to Amr about the project and the technicalities that went into it.

Phoblographer: How did you get into photography?

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Amr: I really don’t remember but from the time when I was a kid my dad give me a camera–a film camera. I really didn’t understand how it worked so I had to open the back of the camera and that made the film go bad and couldn’t get it to take photos anymore but after sometime I start to understand how it worked and after that started my way into art. The camera was my best friend for a long the way.

Phoblographer: What attracts you to creative conceptual work like in Colors of Ramadan?

Amr: I think because it’s super hard, I like to I challenge myself so bad sometimes that the results are not really as expected. Other times it’s just magic!

Phoblographer: You say that most of this was done in-camera with very little post-production. How did you do it?

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Amr: To get you close to my Idea and how I did it, I used a water tank, fishing line and attached the Lanterns with nails to hold it in the water, to be able to push the ink into the tank to take the photos without getting the Lanterns to move.

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It was super, super hard to do it, you have to take about 5000 photos to only get 10 that look good, the most hard part that I have to fill the water tank over and over the water get a lot of colors was hard for the camera to take the photos with all this colors.

I was also having this noise problem–I don’t have studio lights so I use two small lamps for the background behind the water tank and one on the side on front of the tank to light the ink and getting good shadows.

The first day was really bad–the ink was every where in the tank and covered the lanterns for more than 8 hours. I realized I needed more pulsing looks, so I started to push the ink like pulses with mixing the colors! Then I started to see some magic!

One other problem was the reflection on the water tank–so I had to cover all the stuff in the room with black cloth and I was working in a really small room.

After the first day I was very tired my arms were killing me but I started to look at the photos and saw that only 2 photos was good! I feel so sad but after three days I started all over again to make about more three photos. It was hard to make this every day so I stopped for day or two and start again for 6 days without any successful images. The funny thing that I lost weight, grew some good arm muscles and of course the photos! There really wasn’t much editing at all–I had to fix the colors, play with curves, noise reduction and remove the fishing line/ air bubbles.

Phoblographer: Where did the inspiration for this project come from? Why a lantern and all the colors?

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Amr: A few months ago I was playing with an old pen that has ink so I started play with the ink inside a coffee mug and was looking cool so I started to try and try for few months, then I bought the water tank and some ink color and played with it, and the development journey of the idea began.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and the month in which Muslims commemorate the first revelation of the Quran. and the lantern is the icon for the month, Ramadan comes in summer so I think the colors fit it excellent, and because I really like cheerful colors.

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