Egypt (1984)

Christmas 1984. Privatization by the Thatcher government was ongoing, the miner’s strike was in full swing and Beezer was 19 years old. The UK was misery, bleakness and depression. He had a job working for Venue magazine as a staff photographer and at the same time he was photo correspondent for the NME.

It was also at this time that he heard about a small number of my friends who’d been traveling to Egypt. They were all young and traveling even just from Bristol to London was a journey then, and an adventure as well.

Beezer took a backpack with a change of clothes, his Nikon FE and bulk loaded rolls of Tri-X, FP4, mostly black and white and a few rolls of colour, as well as a few rolls of Kodak negative colour film. He spent a few nights in Cairo, capturing its feel and mood, belly-dancing shows and the night life, what there was of it. Having had enough of Cairo, he decided to take the train to Luxor and visit the Egypt of the Pharaohs.

The 12 Hour Express train to Luxor departed in the evening, economy class, with open toilets dropping straight onto the tracks below. It was a never-ending journey that took 36 hours.

He did all the things people do in Luxor: took a boat to Aswan, visited the Valley Of The Kings, checked out the Sphinx and King David’s tomb.

When in Cairo and Luxor, he knew some of the photos were to be published one day and so with that in mind, he got to work. He shot street portraits of fruit vendors, men sitting and standing, old and young men, men smoking hookers, kids, tobacco shops, shops stacked with nicely arranged goods and products, a little boy selling chicken, fields, the Nile River, belly dancers. The people were friendly but he needed to have a degree of caution. He’d been to Morocco not long before and it had been a constant hassle. He kept looking for ideas and kept finding them. Egypt was a photographer’s paradise. There is much history in the faces.

It is Cairo he remembers the most. Cairo was a chugged, smoky, incredibly hot city, bustling, heaving with chaotic, orthodox life.

It was a different time then. He did see a degree of frustration, a frustration not from being locked down but rather a frustration born from the underlying issues. Issues like the standard of living. Says Beezer, “Still, the light in the kid’s faces is what I remember the most.”