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Another Look at Cairo: Mohamed ElShahed at TEDxCairo 2012

tedxcairo.com - Mohamed El Shahed is the founder and editor of http (Twitter: @Cairobserver) , a blog dedicated to the city's architecture, urbanism, city life and cultural heritage.He is a doctoral candidate in the Middle East Studies Department at New York University. His research focuses on architecture and urban planning in Egypt from the 19th century to the present. In his TEDxCairo talk, Mohamed takes us on a virtual subway tour around Cairo, encouraging the citizens of Cairo to pay better attention to the minute details that reflect the policies that affect their lives on a daily basis and to take a more active part in the decision making process. INTRO music: TEDxCairo 2012 COLLISIONS soundtrack by Bassem Ebeid In thespirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
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Last week, as protests once again raged in the streets of Cairo, Magnum photographer Moises Saman was there. Over three days, he documented the ongoing street battles near his residence in the Garden City area—right around the corner from the American Embassy and Tahrir Square.

With rocks and tear-gas canisters flying through the air, Saman understood that he only had a small window of time to work.

“If you’re putting yourself right in the middle, eventually you’ll get hit,” he said. “You have to work fast.”

Taking cover behind a burnt car, Saman photographed protestors in the streets early on the morning of Sept. 14th. It was there that he shot the photograph featured as the opening Worldview spread in this week’s issue of TIME. Police and protestors had clashed throughout the night, following a string of unrest earlier in the day that had resulted in the attack of the American Embassy. Arriving at the protests, Saman found a varied scene.

“It was around 7 or 8 am,” he told TIME, “and the mood was tense. There were not many photographers around—I was one of the only foreigners.”

The street gleamed with pools of water from police water cannons, reflecting men standing defiantly in the street. Improvised tools of outrage littered the roadway: stones, chunks of concrete, burned-out vehicles and broken tree branches.

In the background, lines of men fanned out, some with arms crossed, others recording the spectacle with their cell phones. Taking advantage of a brief lull, several sat on the curb, nursing their exhaustion from a long night of clashes and tear-gas.

Moving quickly, Saman photographed young men as they scavenged for stones. Working in the no man’s land between the groups, the photographer needed to turn his back to police in order to capture the action in front of him. Although security forces weren’t firing live ammunition, the risk of injury was still high: “Getting hit with a rock will ruin your day,” he jokes.

Living in Cairo for the past year has taught Saman that he can’t afford the luxury of hanging around a scene waiting for the best light and peak action. It’s often when one lingers too long that problems can arise.

“You need to work quickly,” he said. “You need to work with purpose.”

Moises Saman, a Magnum photographer based in Cairo, was previously featured on LightBox for his work from Libya.

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Alberto Cairo's newly translated book on information graphics, The Functional Art, is a healthy mix of theory and how it applies in practice, and much of it comes from Cairo's own experiences designing graphics for major news publications. (I don't think Alberto remembers, but what seems like many years ago, I sat right behind him for two weeks at the New York Times when they brought him in to help illustrate Raphael Nadal's approach to tennis.)

His experience is hugely important in making the book work. There's a growing number of books on information graphics, and many are written and illustrated by people who don't have much experience displaying information, which leads to art books posing as something else. This isn't one of those books. Cairo knows what he's talking about.

As you flip through, you'll notice a lot of examples, with a focus on process and even a handful of pencil sketches. The last third of the book is interviews with those well-established in the field, which also walks you through how some graphics were made. There's a strong undertone of finding the balance between function (e.g. efficiency and accuracy) and engagement (e.g. use of circles).

Cairo comes from a journalism background, so the book is mostly in the context of presentation, but there's of course plenty that you can apply to more exploratory graphics. I would say though that Cairo's strength is in illustration and information, and so the book reflects that. This isn't a book that covers visual data analysis or statistical concepts, but it is one that explores and describes the making of high quality information graphics that lend clarity to concepts and ideas. If you're looking for the latter, The Functional Art is worth your time.

Check out the sample chapter on the publisher page, but then grab it on Amazon and save a few bucks.

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