Built in 1808, The Palace of Muhammad Ali in Shubra is considered an iconic piece of architecture. It uniquely blends European design elements with Islamic planning and practices, rendering it a majestic representation of Egypt’s multicultural nature. Making the historic palace a fitting location for multinational luxury fashion house Dior to host an exclusive reception for 400 distinguished guests. Cairo, Egypt-based architecture photographer Nour El Refai was tasked with taking the photos photos of the decorated interior and the various setups. Nour has a special understanding of architecture. This is because he also has a bachelor’s degree in the practice from Cairo University.
Nour came across this project when the Event Designer, Dina Iskandar, reached out to him, wanting an architecture and interior specialist’s perspective to help highlight the elements of design and event planning.
I’m an architectural photographer by trade. So capturing, documenting, and communicating the essence of spaces is my main scope of work.
Collaboration was minimal for Nour and Dior. However, having experience shooting the palace on prior assignments gave him vital practical knowledge and confidence in the project.
I did not take part in the pre-planning. I just got a brief about the event and I already knew the palace as I photographed it before and during its renovation.
The main goal of the images was to document Dina’s work.
Part of my work is to capture and focus on closeups and details as well as the big picture. So, throughout the process the brand identity was well communicated through the colors and selections of material as well as the customization of most of the elements.
The Palace of Muhammad Ali is one of the most important monuments of Egypt’s architectural heritage and opens its doors for special events. Given the architectural and artistic combination present at the palace, from its colored glass and intricate woodwork to gilding and artworks, Nour had to strike a delicate balance in his imagery.
The venue selection was exceptional and on point for an outstanding fashion house like Dior. The contrast between the heritage site, the modern, vibrant colors, and the fashion environment was an interesting experience for me to capture.
The energy on set was creative, tense, and time-sensitive. Yet it was also vibrant and full of sophistication.
Nour had to finish the shoot by a certain time before the guests arrived. So he kept moving and requesting fine-tuning of the set-up until the very last minute in order to gain the optimal shots.
I definitely gained more experience working under stress and a tight schedule.
The biggest challenge he encountered was his control over the substantial space.
Everyone was constantly moving around and, while trying to capture every angle, we had to re-style things or wait for people to move to make it work. This was quite a difficult challenge.
The highlight of the shoot for Nour was contending with the various technical challenges on-set.
Deciding which areas to start with according to the sun’s movement in the place is always an important aspect of my shoots, none more so than on this assignment.
See more of Nour’s work on his website.
Designer and Event Planner: Dina Iskandar
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