Name Mohamed Hassan
Job currently studying for an MA
Website Mohamed Hassan
Project Witnessing Wales
New Landscape Photography
Mohamed Hassan is a portrait and landscape photographer who has been living in Wales for the past 13 years. His work is a compelling mixture of the two genres that gains power and complexity from the way he combines them to explore themes of identity and belonging.
Mohamed’s work caught my attention on Instagram, standing out with its strong but muted colour pallet, and his crisply black and white yet gently smeared shots. His Welsh landscape photos have also captured the attention of the National Museum of Wales, who’ve purchased a number of prints for their collection.
“My work explores the lived experience of people who are considered ‘different’ or marginalised due to race, sex & sexual orientation, and disability.”
Welsh Landscape Photos
The landscapes selected by the museum appear to be dreamy, soft-focus colour images, almost pictorial in their subject matter and composition. But there’s more to them than at first meets the eye. There’s a darkly controlled aspect that’s strikingly different to typical, brightly sharp landscape photos, and there’s a softness doesn’t come from filters or vintage lenses.
Their difference lies in movement: they’re shot from the passenger seat of a speeding vehicle, by a photographer who moved from Egypt to Wales. “The landscape here looks different. In Egypt we have the desert, the pyramids, everything looks more yellow. But when I arrived here, everything was green.”
For a portrait photographer, leaving his country was a challenge and at first Mohamed was wary of shooting people, preferring instead to explore the countryside with his camera. “I wasn’t confident to photograph people in the beginning, so I used to walk for miles and just take my cameras with me. I think in the landscape I feel calm, like meditating maybe.”
A landscape shoot with a difference
It was thanks to a happy accident that his work began to take on a more unique style that’s enabled him to move beyond the purely representational. Mohamed had started to take long drives, with his wife at the wheel, exploring his newly adopted home and turning his lack of a driving licence to his advantage.
“I don’t drive so my wife was driving and I was like a little bit lazy to get out of the car, so I shot everything through the windscreen. So that’s how it gets that dreamy look. The first one was an accident but I liked it and thought it was ok to shoot that way.”
New landscape photography
The blur comes from foggy screens, or moving and bouncing vehicle, and the landscapes are glimpses and instinctive shots, grabbed as he rounds a bend or comes upon a view. It’s now an essential part of his process that helps him break with the landscape photographers of the past.
“I admire photographers like Ansel Adams, but I don’t want to do stuff that’s very static, or try to make everything perfect. I want to I really explore the accidents, when I’ve the f-stop wrong or the flash goes off when I’m not expecting it.”
Photography and identity
As he became more familiar with his living situation, Mohamed began to photograph portraits, and now his landscapes are often paired or displayed with photographs of people he’s met along the way. “I find people in the landscape the way you find sometimes find interesting objects. I like to mix all this together, like making a narrative or making a story.”
But these portraits are not what immediately springs to mind: there are no miners or shepherds, no valleys of terraced houses or slag heaps. Instead there’s a quietly intense selection of images, that add up to a thoughtful way of seeing a landscape and the people who inhabit it. The combination creates an extra layer of investigation, not just into Wales and the Welsh landscape but also into the changes that Mohamed feels in his own identity.
“I’ve been living in two in worlds 13 or 14 years now. In Wales, I feel like I’m an outsider, because of the way I talk and the way I look. But when I go back to Egypt, people think I’m not from Egypt, so maybe I’ve started to sound different, or maybe I’ve got different style.”
About Personal Work Journal
PWJ is a photo journal dedicated to showcasing new photography from emerging and established photographers.