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Of Passion and Profession: The Story of a Rising Egyptian Photographer

August 4, 2023
Photo Credits: Aliaa Moatasem

For those who thrive in creative fields, it is a dream to be able to turn a passion into a profession. While many pursue this dream with varying degrees of success, fashion photographer Aliaa Moatasem seems well on her way to achieving it.

From beginning her journey in 2016 to being employed as a professional photographer in 2018, Moatasem has been developing her skills for years.

“I already worked in university as a freelance photographer, and I had a part-time job for a fashion brand called Emma,” says Moatasem about her years at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

Now with a following of 13,600 on Instagram and 22,400 on TikTok, this recent graduate proves the value of hard work over time, especially because Moatasem was still a student even as she hit important milestones in her photography career.

Passion, Profession, and University

Photo Credit: Aliaa Moatasem

Luckily for Moatasem, her university experience went hand in hand with her passion for photography while also facilitating her growing fascination with videography and editing.

As a Communication and Media Arts major and Film minor, courses for each overlapped so well with her interests that they were “a piece of cake,” Moatasem tells Egyptian Streets.

However, between her work as a freelancer, her part-time jobs, and university coursework, Moatasem admits that time management was a struggle.

Even so, she contributed to the university scene. After extensive work with the AUC Talent Show, she eventually became the event’s Head of Marketing.

“I knew all the camerawork, the production, how to produce videos and create a mood for Instagram,” Moatasem explains. “I was a member for two years, and then I took the position of Head of Marketing.”

Moatasem notes that much of her work centered around videography, which ended up being a great boon for her in her last semester. For her internship course, she took the opportunity to work in photographer and director Ahmed Kadry’s digital marketing company, Shedding Light.

“I was in the creative team and what I did was photography and videography and editing,” Moatasem recalls. “We had different clients from sports, fashion, food, […] clients mokhtalefa tamaman (that differ completely), so I had to explore shooting for different things other than fashion.”

Moatasem expressed the necessity of the internship in that it showed her how a conventional work environment operates, as opposed to the freelance work she had always done.

“It was a great experience, I enjoyed it very, very much,” she adds.

Growing with Tasneem Elaidy

Photo Credit: Aliaa Moatasem

During her time at AUC, Moatasem was not the only rising star in her field. Her extracurricular activities caused her to cross paths with Tasneem Elaidy, a now-famous Egyptian singer who was still growing her name at the time.

“I connected with her in the Talent Show, actually,” Moatasem recalls. “We got to know each other, we followed each other, and then she posted a story about wanting to do a shoot, so I reached out.”

She explains that Elaidy posted a short cover of Masked Wolf’s ‘Astronaut in the Ocean’ that went viral while Moatasem was editing the shoot, so by the time the photos were posted, Elaidy was a hot topic in Egypt. Moatasem shares that her page gained 5,000 followers over two days after the post.

Haset en rez’y mn rez’aha (I felt that her good fortune was mine, too),” Moatasem says. “We grew up together all at once.”

The pair established a solid friendship and worked together as time went on. Moatasem continued in her photography and other visual pursuits while Elaidy released more music.

Then in March 2023, Elaidy’s song, ‘Queen,’ was displayed on a billboard in Times Square in New York — and the featured photo of Elaidy on the song’s cover art was taken by Moatasem.

“Until now, everytime I say it, I’m not convinced it happened,” Moatasem admits with a laugh. “I took this picture! It was up there on the screens!”

Moving Forward

Photo Credits: Aliaa Moatasem

Moatasem’s achievements during her adventures with photography were not easily gained.

“For the past two years especially, I had work and university and capstone and everything. It was all very stressful […] And the talent show in my last year was seriously killer,” Moatasem explains.

She jokes that she was so busy that she was hardly able to go home everyday. However, since graduating in June 2023, Moatasem has been determined to enjoy her summer vacation.

“I’m slowing things down […] If I want to take a break I will take a break,” she says. “To enjoy myself and to let myself relax.”

That said, she is still carrying on with her part-time job at Emma, and is already brainstorming new ideas for her Instagram page.

“I’m planning on focusing on my [Instagram] page more — more collaborations with bloggers, with well-known people,” Moatasem says. “I want to do things that are a bit out of the box for me; like art directions for unique photo shoots. […] I’m already planning many shoots, but nothing is certain yet.”

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