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6Qs with Photographer Noha Ghany //

byMarwa Helal

Like so many of us young Arab-Americans, Noha Ghany chose a traditional career path when she started her freshman year at The Ohio State University. Once, a student expecting to graduate with the pre-requisites for a career in health care, she recently earned her BFA in photography. She tells FEN about why she made the switch and shares some photos:

On Being Haifa (detail)

place to photograph: Studio–it allows me to stage or perform for the camera while maintaining some sense of intimacy
form of photography:
Color negative printing
color through the camera: Colors that appear natural but have a hyper-real effect

1. When did you first become interested in photography?
I have always loved taking pictures. My parents gave me an automatic Minolta camera when I was 11. They wanted me to take pictures of my family and friends to serve as memories. Looking back at some of those photos I see my girlfriends and I, so easily posed in front of the camera–at that age we didn’t have any insecurities or worries. We were in control.  That was my first exposure to “photography.”

2. When did you decide it was what you wanted to study?
I took the photography courses offered throughout high school but it was not until I took my first college course that I knew that was what I wanted to study. I have always been drawn to the arts, and was never really a strong writer.

After taking my first course I was instantly attracted to the notion that I could have an idea or thought and try to see it visually. Plus I used to skip most of my math and science classes to go hang in the darkroom!

3. Your inspirations, role models and why?
I have so many! Being from two cultures: Egyptian and American, I am always thinking about this “in between-ness.”

I often look at misconceptions of the nature of an Arab woman as well as highlighted stereotypes. Shirin Neshat was the first female Arab-Muslim artist I learned about, so naturally I was drawn to her. She juxtaposes a lot of written calligraphy, guns, and martyrs with body parts–making the body appear like an open book. Beyond the obvious: how powerful and poetic her work is,

I like how she takes a stereotype and uses it in a way to point it back in your face. This method of using a cliché symbol then subverting the viewer is something that interests me.

4. What are you doing now that you have your BFA?
I hope to eventually go back to graduate school for my MFA. In the meantime, I’m interning at a professional photo studio to gain experience and strengthen my lighting and business skills. I’ll be taking a trip to Cairo, where I’ll be freelancing while exploring ideas that deal with both my identities, as well as the expanding hybrid-mix of culture there.

5. What’s your favorite camera to play with?
I love using Holgas (plastic cameras)–the negatives are usually an awesomely crappy quality and the images are distorted so I never have full control over the result.

6. Your advice for younger artists?
Just start with something simple you like and are good at, and expand from that. Something great and true will come out when you are passionate about it.

For more on Noha Ghany, visit

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