A New Angle on the Soldiers of Tahrir Square

The Photo Blog
Sept. 12 2013 10:41 AM

A New Angle on the Soldiers of Tahrir Square


Nermine Hammam

Artist Nermine Hammam was in Tahrir Square during Egypt’s revolution in early 2011 waiting to take pictures of the arrival of the Egyptian army.

She describes the waiting period for the army to arrive as almost mythological: the idea of a powerful, masculine force, a “military might” that would arrive almost “from outer space” to settle the situation.

But instead, at the location where Abercrombie & Kent buses had recently transported tourists to the famous square, hatches opened up from the tanks to reveal a completely different type of soldier. “I started looking at these boys who are 16, 17, or 18 and had never been to a city,” Hamman said about the young soldiers.


Or, as she wrote in her artist statement: “I couldn’t help but notice their youth. Their wide-eyes and tiny frames were so different from the police forces we had grown familiar with. They were the sons of anxious parents. They stood on street corners, squinting at the cacophony of Cairo, observers of history, not the angry stereotypes of masculinity through which our narratives of the army are articulated.


Nermine Hammam


Nermine Hammam


Nermine Hammam

She began taking pictures of the young men and blended them with postcards to create images for a series she titled “Upekkha.” The title refers to the Buddhist concept of equanimity, which is a common theme in her photographic projects.

Hammam was born in Egypt, went to boarding school in England, and studied film at New York Univerity. “I edit the images I think represent something. I think maybe the soldier’s innocence, the idea that we don’t really see the soldiers: They are covered, and you don’t come close and look at the people because we have dehumanized soldiers,” she explained. “For me it was ‘Who are these kids?’ I’m sure these kids would rather not be in Tahrir Square, not sleeping for days, not having toilets, not eating properly; they would probably rather be on holiday.”

For Hammam, herself a mother, she said looking at the soldiers made her want to transport them to pleasant places, to reassure them that they’d be OK. “This work is about youth, universal youth, and the harshness and inhumanity of sending our children to war,” Hammam said.


Nermine Hammam


Nermine Hammam


Nermine Hammam


Nermine Hammam



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

Even by Russian Standards, Moscow’s Anti-War March Was Surprisingly Grim

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 22 2014 12:30 PM Turkey Just Got Forty-Six Hostages Back From ISIS. How Did That Happen?
Sept. 22 2014 12:44 PM The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy
The Shortcut
Sept. 22 2014 12:31 PM Down With Loose Laces A simple trick to tighten your running shoes for good.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 12:22 PM The Age of the Streaming TV Auteur
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.