Just as Yosra El-Essawy, Beyoncé’s former official tour photographer, was drawn to capture the deepest expressions of humanity, her life story was in itself a portrait of humanity – a heartening story of resilience, beautiful strength and courage that overshadows the struggles and pain she had to endure.
Before landing the job of her dreams with Beyoncé , El-Essawy worked tremendously hard as a wedding photographer between London, New York, and Egypt. Born to Egyptian parents in London, the name ‘Yosra’ was not randomly chosen, but carried its own symbolic meaning since birth, El-Esssawy shared in a Facebook post. Though her mother was tiresomely rushed to the hospital, El-Essawy arrived shockingly “with ease” without much help from the doctor. Since then, her birth represented the word “yosra”, which is mentioned in a verse in the holy Quran: “Surely, with hardship comes ease” (Quran 94:5).
Her name went on to shape her entire life philosophy. With hardship, and with rigorous passion and drive, she became a highly energetic and independent woman who was always scheduled and busy, and chased her love for art relentlessly. Though she initially received an honors degree in physiology from University College London (UCL), she chose instead to sacrifice a stable life and follow her “gut”, as she felt happier while painting or editing photographs.
At its core, photography is about making an authentic, human connection, and capturing real human stories, which is why El-Essawy started out as a wedding photographer. “It’s a beautiful story to tell, and I loved it,” she said. But there was a point in her life where felt that she needed to achieve beyond what she was achieving. “I just said, you know what? It’s time to let it all go, jump off the side of the cliff again, and just believe the net will appear.”
El-Essawy auditioned to become a celebrity tour photographer, and just five days before Beyonce’s “Mrs. Carter Show World Tour,” she got the job.
“Beyoncé specifically is the only celebrity that I’ve ever vocalized wanting to photograph, ever,” she says. “There’s just such a humanity and beauty about her that I’ve always seen.”
Yet, the timing of the tour was “divinely timed,” she once said, as just six weeks after experiencing the best times of her life in the tour, she was diagnosed with stage four oeseophageal cancer.
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“God has the ability to make amazing from terrible,” she added.
The incredible amount of love and support from Beyoncé’s fans around the world helped bring ease in her hardships of enduring the disease and seeing the silver lining. In a number of Facebook posts, she thoughtfully contemplated life’s lessons; revealing how humanity can also exist in the shadow of struggle.
“Never before have I known myself better, have I felt so secure, so loved, so grateful, never have I been so present. I was always going, always dreaming up my next moves, always on the run, never stopping to take stock of where I was and give myself credit for what I had already achieved. Then the slug came into my life, like a scene from a movie and it changed it up, broke down everything I knew. Took me off tour. Slowed me right down. Forced me to just sit, to breathe, to just be,” she wrote.
El-Essawy passed away at just the age of 33 in 2014, losing her battle to cancer. There is little documentation of her life and work online, but her story carries a timeless life lesson for all of us: whatever hardship one has to endure, there will always be a silver lining to bring ease and relief.
“Whatever and whoever you love, keep loving and trust that the universe will conspire to give you what you want and what you need. That love has been my ease in my hardship and I am forever grateful,” she said in one of her final posts.