At 34 years old, Camélia Shahat (@shahatmorsiclub), a true emerging artist, photographer and designer nestled in the heart of France, embarks on a profound exploration of familial legacy with roots firmly planted in both Egyptian and Algerian ancestry, and the essence of womanhood within Arab culture.

We had a moment to discuss Photography: the Universal Language, where one of her images is on exhibition as well as how to find inspiration, and her life as an emerging photographer.

FFU: It's so cool to actually meet you in person! I hope I get the opportunity to meet everyone during this exhibition. So, let's get into it. Tell us, why photography? How did you get your start?

CS: During my final year project at fashion school (6 years ago), and in subsequent projects, I had the opportunity to collaborate with photographers who truly grasped my vision in photography. I began taking photos on my iPhone since I've never been particularly fond of digital cameras, largely due to my struggles with settings. Eventually, I discovered analog photography, which felt like a more natural and genuine medium to capture moments with their imperfections. This inspired me to delve deeper into creating my own photographs. Although I still have much to learn about camera settings, my approach remains instinctive and raw, differing significantly from other creative processes like designing or sewing clothes.
Camélia Shahat
© Camélia Shahat
FFU: You are one of 14 winning photographers in our exhibition Photography: the Universal Language. What made you apply?

CS: I decided to apply because I thought, "What's there to lose?" The worst outcome would be gaining a beautiful experience, increasing visibility for my work, and receiving valuable feedback. It's still surreal to me that my art is now viewed by others in a museum. I'm incredibly proud of this achievement. In addition, I get to discover other females artists. I'm always inspired by others creativity, it gives me strength.

FFU: Tell us about your winning image.

CS: Capturing Embracing Gizeh was challenging; I had less than an hour to photograph each segment involving my friend under difficult backlighting conditions. This was also the first project where I was the only photographer. To me, the woman's body, but more particurlarly hands, powerfully represent female empowerment through their portrayal of gestures.

FFU: How do you stay inspired and continue to evolve as a photographer? Are there any resources or practices that you find especially helpful?

FFU: I stay inspired by constantly looking around me while walking,travelling or even through a conversation. I am a daydreamer. I enjoy observing. Also, I found it particularly useful to research the significance of objects, garments, and colors in the history of Arab women. The central theme of my projects is my dual heritage from Algeria and Egypt. I strive to reinterpret and transform some of the traditional elements of my cultures through my artistic lens. My inspiration for this shoot was the cinematic aesthetics reminiscent of old Egyptian films, particularly the portrayal of femininity in famous actresses and iconic figures like belly dancers or a reimagined Cleopatra.
Camélia Shahat
© Camélia Shahat
FFU: What equipment do you typically use, and why do you prefer it for your work?

CS: I predominantly use point-and-shoot cameras, and my favorite film is Kodak Portra, ideal for capturing scenes in sunny conditions. I minimally adjust my photos, perhaps brightening colors or adjusting the temperature.

FFU: What is your favorite image you've made so far in your career and why?

CS: One of my favorite images was taken during a trip to Egypt where I photographed my friend Salima, whom I had only met a few months prior. The personal connection and shared history with Salima enriched the project, making the process feel natural and genuine. Upon viewing the results, I was overwhelmed with pride in my work.
Touching people with your art is the most rewarding experience, so never hide your creativity. It can heal you, it can cultivate you so much.
Camélia Shahat
© Camélia Shahat
FFU: I think it's always important to share things we are all learning along the way, no matter what point we're at careerwise. What advice would you give to aspiring photographers who are looking to improve their skills or break into the industry?

CS: I am constantly learning in photography, and the advice I offer applies to me as well. Trust in your vision-while not everyone will perceive the beauty you capture, you will encounter incredible individuals who will greatly appreciate and enhance your work. Seeing your art through their eyes will reassure you that you're on the right path. Touching people with your art is the most rewarding experience, so never hide your creativity. It can heal you, it can cultivate you so much.

FFU: That is profoundly beautiful, Camélia. Thank you for sharing that. What projects or goals do you have on the horizon? What can we expect to see from you in the future?

CS: I'm passionate about digital illustrations and am looking forward to enhancing my abilities in this medium. I also plan to explore the realm of street photography, which presents an exciting challenge as it involves diving into strangers' intimacy. I also want to learn more about camera setings to challenge myself, to put more intention in my photography.