When I first met Karina Al Piaro in the heart of Riyadh, she was wearing a grey, silk Abaya-style dress and had accented her look with a carefully selected treasured accessory, an oversized gold ring on her hand; this ring encapsulated her simplistic signature look.

British-born but based in North Africa, predominantly Cairo, Al Piaro grew up around the River Nile, Egypt and it was there that she was inspired to pick up a camera. She went on to become a professional in the world of advertising and fashion photography in Europe, shooting for prestigious international magazines such as Elle and Vogue. Today, Karina works as a full-time photojournalist and visual artist in the Middle East.

In recognition of the new Egyptian era since the ouster of the Mubarak regime, the photographer will be exhibiting a photographic series as part of a potential wider multimedia project entitled “Nile in the Blood” beginning this December. The exhibition will take place on the banks of the Nile itself at the historical Heritage Hotel in Aswan, Egypt. The old character hotel, which dates back as far as 1902, is a Protected Heritage Site. The event will mark the beginning of a series of Fund Raising Photographic Auctions in Egypt and Europe for The Nile Legacy Projects, marking a new chapter in Egyptian history.

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Oasis Interviews Karina Al Piaro.

Before becoming a photojournalist, you were an established fashion photographer based in Paris. What made you want to leave the fashion capital and move to Egypt?
My move from Paris to Cairo was part of my decision to evolve personally and professionally; the representation of beauty alone no longer satisfied me. It was during an opportunity to assist National Geographic magazine in Cairo that I was reminded once again of the power of the Image itself and the need for empathetic Images that change perceptions. It was during this shoot that I clearly realized my images would be better placed to serve causes as opposed to the sole exclusivity of the marketing of corporations.

You are also the founding director of Fondation Monde Perdu, a unique non-profit organization that was created by photographers who use the photographic image as a platform to focus on raising awareness about the cultural and natural heritage of the Nile Basin. What positive impact can it bring to the region?
Fondation Monde Perdu was conceptualized as a result of what I myself and my fellow photographers witnessed directly during the Egyptian Revolution triggered in February 2011 both in Cairo and in Upper Egypt (Nile Basin).

I had already been shooting a body of images dedicated to the spirit of the Nile and the Nile Basin territories before the revolt started. And suddenly I found myself in a position where I had a moral responsibility as an image-maker to dedicate this image-making to the bigger picture.

Our fundamental goal is very simple: In the face of much negative international media that has targeted Cairo, we wish to harness the power of the image as a tool to raise positive awareness of the heritage of the Nile Basin territory, which effectively is the south of the region and the Nile. In doing so, we will not only be documenting currently the Egyptian story to an audience, but we will also hopefully change perceptions through the emotions carried in the images themselves.
The images are effectively assets that will then be harnessed to raise funds towards Nile Legacy Projects through a series of international auctions and exhibitions beginning in December in Egypt and touring across Europe throughout 2013.

Tell us more about your latest project “Nile in the Blood”.

“Nile in the Blood” is a visual metaphor for survival; it’s a visual antidote to what has been witnessed in Cairo throughout the revolt and the subsequent unrest. It’s about personal as well as geopolitical revolution and about the preservation, continuity and survival of what we hold to be of value. As a witness to both the dark and light aspects of the revolt, I wished to reflect this through the emotions of the Marakbi (boat) boys of the Nile who have carried their traditions for many generations on this sacred river. It’s their future that this uprising will ultimately affect; the energy running through this entire project will therefore be about the concept of survival.

Your long-lasting passion for the Nile river is as touching and romantic as a love story, but even love doesn’t last. Tell us what keeps your flames burning.

I’m inspired by energy and light; it’s like oxygen for all photographers whether reflected in the people we shoot or the landscapes. While people may arrive and leave our lives, energy and light remain constant, and that’s what gives me hope.

You spend your time shooting between Cairo and Nubia, Which city is dearest to your heart and why?
Cairo represents for me the spirit of chaos, while Nubia represents calm. One energy cannot exist without the other.
You recently visited Riyadh and Alhijaz. I’ve been fascinated by the life and explorations of the Islamic visionary Ibn Battuta for many years. Journeying to these destinations represented another part of that exploration both personally and spiritually. I also felt it was important to take the spirit of the Foundation of the Nile across to the Arabian Peninsula to seek a new audience in a historical territory that has been an essential part of Islamic pilgrimage.

What has been your favorite place to photograph?
I have very positive memories of traveling to Syria; it was one of the most incredibly enlightening territories I’ve ever witnessed; the sense of Light and Pathos is abundant in the eyes of the people. What has ensued since then is tragic.

Fondation Monde Perdu
Gala Dinner and Exhibition Auction Event* at the Old Cataract
Hotel, Aswan, Egypt will be held in December 2012.
For more information on the event, on travel arrangements, and to buy images, please email: fondationmondeperdu@gmail.com or visit: www.fondationmondeperdu.com
*A percentage of all sales of Prints will be donated to the development of Nile Legacy Projects.
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