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The Bobs 2014 winner

Silke Wünsch / smsJune 30, 2014

A 23-year-old blogger and photojournalist from Egypt won The Bobs' highest honors for online activism. Mosa'ab Elshamy was recognized for his powerful work from the streets of Cairo.

Mosa'ab Elshamy
Image: Wissam Nassar

He relies on his camera even in the worst situations. Whether it's street battles in Cairo or whether he's photographing demonstrators who aren't in the greatest mood, Egyptian photographer Mosa'ab Elshamy is always close to the action. The 23-year-old was studying pharmacology during the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Photography was just his hobby at the time.

That changed during the Egyptian revolution, when Elshamy came face-to-face with the power photos can have during a crisis. "I had to go," he told DW in a Skype interview. "I saw it as my job to take these pictures, and I noticed that more and more people wanted to see them."

Fotografien von Mosa'ab Elshamy aus Ägypten (Bildergalerie)
Image: Mosa'ab Elshamy

He quit his studies and instead focused his attention on photojournalism. It wasn't long until his photos started appearing in international media, including "Time Magazine," "Paris Match," "The New York Times" as well as "Rolling Stone" magazine. He has also worked with major press photo agencies and has seen his images printed on the front pages of newspapers and magazines around the world.

Ägypten Bilder von Mosa’ab Elshamy Bobs Gewinner
Image: Getty Images/AFP

Photos without a journalist's filter

Elshamy posts on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr as well as on his website. The site is where Elshamy tells his stories in photos and photo essays. Themes include the Egyptian revolution, injustice, mourning. His images also document the daily lives of the people he meets: laughing children with ice-cream smeared faces, people hanging clothes on a laundry line atop a building as well as other photos that capture life when people don't realize there's a camera pointed at them. They're photos that show a slice of normality in a chaotic situation.

His proximity to people is visible in many of his photos. He brings across other people's raw emotions and presents them in an unfiltered way. Such photos are difficult to take, Elshamy said. "The last thing that people want to see in these kinds of moments is a camera. So I had to learn to approach the people I wanted to photograph very carefully."

Fotografien von Mosa'ab Elshamy aus Ägypten (Bildergalerie)
Image: Mosa'ab Elshamy

In the middle of the riots that shook Cairo after the revolution, Elshamy said he had to be especially careful - and even become invisible - adding that he was in danger whenever he chose to raise a camera to his eye. His photos show the unexpected: a man standing in an angry crowd just moments before he is shot, the moment when fathers carry their dead children in their arms, the moments when men and women cry in despair as chaos surrounds them. These are the scenes Elshamy witnessed and has shown the world.

A language of their own

It was the intensity of Elshamy's photographs that impressed The Bobs jury members as well. Tarek Amr, who nominated Elshamy for Deutsche Welle's prize for online activism, said: "This blogger reports on events with a view that we don't get from other media. He shows sides of life in Egypt that are unseen by the general public because there is a lot going on in places that are hard to reach."

Mohammed Beltagy Prozess Ägypten 17. Februar 2014
Image: picture-alliance/AA

The Bobs jury member Tarek Amr said she was impressed with Elshamy's ability to tell moving stories in his photos.

"There are 14 languages in The Bobs, and although we do not all speak Arabic, we can all understand the power of his images," she said.

Elshamy said he was honored to receive the jury's recognition in the Best Blog category and that he felt encouraged to continue telling stories with his photographs and to work to improve his country.

"The Bobs have shown for many years what people are doing behind the scenes," he said. "That is why I am especially happy that my work - and I - have received this honor."

Mosa'ab Elshamy
Image: Amrou salah Eddin