Livia Chan takes us to meet the people of Egypt in her 88 series – People I met.
About a year ago, I picked up quite a serious camera and have not put it down since.
During this time, I feel my photographic vision has changed. My goal now is to try capture what I see, whether it be beauty, a look, a moment or a story to share with others.
This is a collection of some of my portraits and stories from my travels around Egypt.
Child labor is unfortunately prevalent around the world, particularly in developing countries and rural areas. While I have seen child labor in many parts of the world, I was especially shocked at the level in Egypt. As of 2014, the child labor rate in Egypt was estimated to be as high as 2.7 million.
I was alone and in the back seat of my car when a girl approached my window. She was trying to sell necklaces that she held around her arm. I didn’t want a necklace, but I wanted to give her money thinking that maybe somehow it would help get her off the streets and back to school. I tried to explain to her that my wallet was with my friends who will soon return to the car, but she couldn’t understand. It wasn’t until she tried to open the backdoor of the car, that I really looked at her and immediately recognized her face. She was a replica of my best friend from my childhood, a girl called Julia. Despite the fact that Julia’s background was Italian and she grew up in Australia, the resemblance was so uncanny that it suddenly brought me back.
I remember going to Julia’s house after school as a kid and running around all afternoon, playing in her backyard. Julia’s dad was a butcher. He was a big guy, tall and large, and he never said much. In the corner of their backyard was a garage, but their cars were always parked outside because it was in the garage where her father preserved his meat. Every time I went to her house, she would always bring me into the garage before I left. The garage was dark and empty, and we would have to walk under rows of hanging meat to reach the back corner. She always brought me to the back corner because she wanted to show me where he hung his belt.
I remember once or twice she came to school and showed me her legs. Her thighs were completely blue, covered in bruises. The teachers and parents were all aware, it was no secret what he had done, but no one seemed to speak out. No one called it abuse.
Julia and I went to different high schools and so I never saw her again after the age of eleven. I’ve often thought about her and wondered what she had become. Was she ever able to recover from his torment? Did she ever speak out? Or did her father one day just stop hurting her? I regret that when I was a kid I never realized what was happening and could not be there for her.
The girl outside the car taps on the window, and I wake up from my thoughts. She keeps pushing for me to buy a necklace. “I don’t have any money right now”, I say, “Just wait.” When my friends return back to the car, I hand the girl a note from my wallet. She offers the necklace, which I refuse. She goes to the driver and asks him to tell me that I was very kind. I also want to tell the driver to tell her something. I so desperately want to say: “One day things are going to be better for you.”
But just like with Julia, I do not know if that is true, and so I don’t say a word and our car drives away.
This photo essay was put together by Livia Chan.
Find out more about Livia’s work ~