Given that a good number of photographers are also multi-disciplinary creatives, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Egyptian photographer and artwork designer Hussam Eissa has found inspiration in merging photography with digital art concepts. His goal? To breathe life into his ideas through photo manipulations and double exposure effects. The result? Otherworldly sceneries and surreal visual stories that tickle the imagination.
As with many multi-hyphenate visual creatives, Hussam’s artful journey began when he picked up a decent camera—which just so happened to be a smartphone camera—and began experimenting with some photo editing apps. (On a side note, what are these apps anyway but bite-sized versions of complex photo editing software? A least, those were enough to kickstart the style he is now known for.). What started with streets, sunsets and seasides eventually led Hussam and his viewers to fascinating fantasy worlds and his pensive characters.
Today, Hussam shoots with both a smartphone camera and a Canon 700D to create his dreamlike masterpieces, guided by what he believes makes a work compelling: “The one that has its own concept and style that describes the artist’s personality and not just a photo of something or someone. An artwork that adds something new to this world.”
In our brief chat below, Hussam talks more about his beginnings as a photographer and visual artist, what keeps him sharp and inspired and other creative pursuits that are instrumental to his work. For those who are yet to figure out a style and storytelling technique for their photography, he also has some very important reminders.
Digital Photo Pro: Hello Hussam! Please share with us something about yourself and what you do.
Hussam Eissa: My name is Hussam Eissa. I’m a 22-year-old photographer and artwork designer from Alexandria, Egypt. I take my own photos and manipulate them to create an artwork that tells a story. I started describing the thoughts I have and the phases that I’m going through into artworks since 2017 (for a year and 5 months). So basically, my Instagram feed is a visual diary and each artwork there describes a part of my life. That gave me the opportunity to look back on the past artworks I made and see how life changed me through time. Also, it feels great when I see people relate to most of the artworks and send me cheerful texts or just have a nice conversation about it. I also work as a freelance cover art designer and I’ve made +40 album cover designs, book covers, and posters
DPP: How and when did you start as a photographer? How did you discover the genre and style that you are doing now?
HE: I started photography in 2014 when I got a new phone with a decent camera. I start taking lots of random photos and discovered lots of genres. I started off with street photography (I guess) then I started taking photos of the sea and sunsets. Then I started working on some mobile applications like Picsart and Snapseed to create double exposure portraits and that’s when I started manipulating the images I take to create an artwork instead of just an image. By the time after lots of exploring I started developing my own style and color palette using only a few elements to describe myself.
DPP: Tell us about your go-to gear/favorite camera + lens combo. What makes them the ideal tools of the trade for you?
HE: I prefer taking photos with my mobile camera. I started with a Sony Xperia Z2 mobile camera and now I have OPPO F5 and it’s really decent. I also have DSLR camera Canon 700D to take indoor portraits and sometimes I take outdoor portraits with it. But mostly I work with my phone because it’s really easy to take photos at any time.
DPP: Do you have a routine to keep yourself sharp and inspired for the kind of photography that you do?
HE: I go for long walks by sea a lot even if I don’t plan to take photos. Also, I write down the thoughts I have and then try to illustrate it into an artwork. That helps me a lot to free my mind from lots negative thoughts. That’s the main reason that keeps me doing what I’m doing.
DPP: Who is/are your influences for photography and/or other creative pursuits? In what way/s have they made a mark on you and your craft?
HE: I get inspired by music a lot. Especially a musician named EDEN. I love his music. It helps me to describe what I’m feeling into words. I quoted lots of his lyrics as captions for my artworks.
DPP: For you, what makes a compelling photograph?
HE: To me, a compelling photograph is the one that tells a story on its own and makes you feel that you’re a part of it. The one that has its own concept and style that describes the artist’s personality and not just a photo of something or someone. An artwork that adds something new to this world.
DPP: What’s one bit of photography advice that you wish you heard while you were still starting out?
HE: What I wanted to know the most that I was doing this for myself and not for anyone else. That was really pressuring and tiring to try to use new elements and colors on every post when I didn’t have to. Now, I use almost the same elements in every artwork with almost 2-3 different color palette and that made it a lot easier for me. I still try to develop that and try new elements but not pressuring as it was before. The most amazing thing is that people still support what I do and I’m really grateful for that.
DPP: Lastly, what’s one bit of advice you can give to those who are just starting out and are yet to discover the genre and style they want to tap into?
HE: I think that anyone starting should try a lot. Stop comparing himself to others. It’s okay to be bad at first and get better by time. Always be original. It’s okay to be inspired by others but it’s not okay to just copy others.