Creating as a woman in the Arab World

INTERVIEW | Salma El-Kashef

March 22 , 2021

Salma El-Kashef is the first featured artist in our series, “Creating as a Woman in the Arab World.” El-Kashef is a 28-year-old cinematographer born and based in Cairo, Egypt. She studied lighting and cinematography at the High Cinema Institute, but started exploring her passion for this art since she was 15 years old. Her work reflects unique styles, and is constantly capturing emotions and feelings from her surroundings.


Describe yourself in 3 words ?

I can’t describe myself in 3 words because I am constantly getting to know myself and my art. I am always evolving and discovering different styles in my art



Describe your work to a non-familiar audience ?

My work is full of emotions and authentic. Even if I’m working with a model, I need to be really feeling/ in touch with what I am doing, so the person engaging with my art would also feel something.


How did you get to where you are today ?

I think I got to this point because I am really passionate, and I worked really hard. I had a long journey in discovering myself in photography/cinematography. I would constantly fall and get back up. I always worked on improving myself and learning about my passion. Everything I do, I put love and effort into it, I do everything as if it’s the first time. A person who keeps a conscience while doing the same thing over and over, will eventually have their work recognized.



How would you describe the experience of creating/self-expression in Egypt? 

It wasn’t easy before, or even as important as it is now. People weren’t aware of the art industry [as they are today]. 

I feel like there is a big evolution in the art industry today, our work is being seen and felt, and people developed a bigger artistic sense. And of course, just like there are people who love your work, there are others who don’t. Back in the days, artists were mostly criticized, now it’s more like a 50/50 chance. 



What are the challenges and opportunities ? 

The number of creatives has skyrocketed these past years; there are so many talented people in the industry today. I feel like it [the main challenge] is not about marketing your work but about proving yourself and exposing your work and to let it always talk about you.



As a woman, what is a behavior you disapprove of in your industry today ? 

The thing I disapproved of the most was the stereotype that filmmaking is not a woman’s job/field, stereotypes like “how can she hold a heavy camera?” Or the fact that she won’t be able to endure the long shooting hours and will collapse at any moment. We don’t have to say, “I’m really good, without trying to prove it, you convince people by actually being really good.



How do you hope to see women more in charge/ role development in your field in the coming years ? 

I wish to see women in all fields, in any position they deserve and anything they want to accomplish. Women are extremely strong, I traveled around, and I saw how a woman can be so many things. I wish for women to accomplish whatever they want, no matter the consequences.

I wish to see women doing what they live and are capable of. I have seen a lot of intelligent women doing their thing. In my field, I wish to see more female filmmakers and female photographers, and female sound engineers



What is a piece of advice you can give to aspiring or early career female creatives in Egypt? 

The advice I can give to women in my field, and to any human being is that persistence is key no matter how big the challenge is. As long as you are persistent and you believe in what you’re doing, it doesn’t mean that it’s a straight line, you will fall and pick yourself up over and over. My persistence comes from the fact that I deserve to be where I am because I am passionate about what I do.



As we celebrate women’s history across the world, can you tell us about a woman who inspires you? (Egyptian or not)

In my field, I am inspired by persistent women in challenging situations, women overcoming their struggle. But my biggest source of inspiration is my mom, she is the reason why I hold on. 

Every time I fall, I realize how much of a strong woman she is, and how much she has been through. She makes me want to stand up and keep going. 

My grandmother was a very inspiring woman with her simplicity and perspective, she made me see life in a completely different way. Because of her, I am in touch with the good inside, and feel the softness in my heart. 

Every day, every second, I see a woman who inspires me beyond words, a woman going through so much, bearing a heavy weight and still capable of laughing and loving life. 

I have seen very intelligent, innovative, beautiful (inside out), and persistent women in my life.


Photo credits: Salma El-kashef official Instagram account