PROFILE

Menna Hossam

A model in a long pink dress holds a book on a rocky beach. Waves lap at the shore behind her.

Canon Ambassador and fine art photographer Menna Hossam's work has an ethereal quality, as seen in this image of a model portraying the Greek goddess Eleos. "I've always been interested in Greek mythology, its rich history and culture," explains Menna. "Eleos personifies pity, mercy, clemency and compassion. She is pictured as a shy, weak, vulnerable and sad young woman by the sea in Alexandria, Egypt." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens at 1/320 sec, f/2.2 and ISO125. © Menna Hossam

Fine art and fashion photographer Menna Hossam specialises in creating enchanting images that pay tribute to her creative heroes. Counting Disney, Greek mythology and Shakespeare among her inspirations, the Canon Ambassador has built an enviable reputation for ethereal, whimsical images that could be straight out of a fairytale.

Born and raised in Egypt, Menna was enamoured with fine art from a young age. She discovered photography in 2008 while a student. "We used to visit historical places in Cairo and paint and draw for hours," she says. "I would grab my camera and take pictures of the monuments and buildings. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was enjoying it, so I started taking portraits of my friends. I was always looking for unique faces, people who had something special about them. Things evolved from there and I began developing my own style."
After selling some of her paintings and working at an advertising agency, Menna took the plunge and launched her photography career. "I've always been a photographer, but I went freelance in 2018," she says. "I took a leap of faith. My circle is thankfully quite big, and it was a word of mouth situation where people came to know I'd gone freelance. It all took off from there."

Today, Menna is renowned for her dreamy photography, which is inspired by fantasy and storytelling. She is also a successful commercial photographer and has worked on campaigns for a number of international brands including Vodafone and Ikea. Among her most notable work is the imaginative Ophelia project, which was two years in the making. "Ophelia is one of my favourite Shakespearean characters," she says. "She's a complicated character with real depth. I wanted a natural redhead and someone who could reflect the melancholic side of Ophelia – her sorrow and her pain. It wasn't an easy task!"
Canon Ambassador and fine art and fashion photographer Menna Hossam.

Location: Cairo, Egypt
Specialist areas: Fine art, fashion
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS R
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
A side portrait of a woman with braided red hair staring downwards in a melancholy manner.

Menna's Ophelia project, which was inspired by the tragic heroine from Shakespeare's Hamlet, took a long time to realise, but the hard work was worth it. "I spent two years looking for a model to portray the Ophelia I had in my mind," says Menna. "It wasn't an easy task but this is my favourite project to date!" Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens at 1/320 sec, f/2.8 and ISO400. © Menna Hossam

A woman with a short black bob and dressed in 1920s clothing holds a small Sphynx cat.

"The model in this image, Dr Colleen Darnell, is a very famous Egyptologist. She's an author and a gorgeous, well-educated woman. I came across her Instagram profile and she was so strikingly beautiful; she always dresses in 1920s and 1930s style, so that's her real wardrobe! She collects vintage clothes; even the haircut is her own. I added the Sphynx cat because I felt the composition was perhaps a little empty. The cat adds to the striking nature of this image," says Menna. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/3.2 and ISO800. © Menna Hossam

Menna shot the work in Alexandria and spent a month on the colour palette, which was inspired by Renaissance era paintings. "It finally came to me," she says. "The whole thing was a bit of a struggle but that's exactly why it's my favourite project. I was about to give up on it all. I was so proud of the finished result and that doesn't always happen. I feel differently about this project; it's very precious."
A model dressed in a Cinderella-esque blue dress stands in the leafy Royal Gardens at Prague Castle in the Czech Republic.

This enchanting image was taken in the Royal Gardens at Prague Castle, Czech Republic. "It was quite challenging in that I had to scout blindly online from Cairo without seeing the actual location. I had a dress but no model. I wanted a Cinderella aesthetic, and when I came across Prague Castle and its gardens, I thought, 'That's it!' The shoot was magical. The pictures were displayed in an exhibition in the presidential office inside the castle. It was one of my proudest moments," says Menna. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens at 40mm, 1/1000 sec, f/4 and ISO320. © Menna Hossam

Entirely self-taught, Menna is working on a photobook that she hopes to publish. "I have always dreamed about creating this kind of content; it's like my own Disneyland!" she says. "I also really want to give photography workshops outside the Middle East. The idea of travelling and meeting new people and introducing my art to others excites me."

The fashion photographer has some sound advice for those wishing to follow a similar path – always have patience. "Patience is the key to everything," she says. "There were times when I was close to giving up and I'm so glad I didn't listen to the voices in my head. I kept pushing myself. Persistence and patience are everything when it comes to photography. You get out what you put in. After nine years, I've become an Ambassador for the brand I've always loved. I was patient and I didn't give up."
How would you describe your photographic style?
"My images are whimsical and fairytale-orientated. Each has a back story. I read a lot and this is a huge source of inspiration. I love Shakespeare and, this may sound a little odd, but metal music inspires me. I find the lyrics, the stories and how they describe the feelings really inspiring; the approach is different from any other genre. Sometimes I'll listen to a piece of classical music and I can imagine people dancing in a certain way, and an idea grows from there."

What's the most exciting shoot you've ever done?
"My most adventurous shoot was in a forest in Bohemian Switzerland in the northwestern Czech Republic. I watched The Chronicles of Narnia and thought the location looked amazing. I looked it up and found that it existed. I was travelling to Germany anyway, so we visited where the movie was shot at the same time. The forest was overwhelmingly beautiful, and the model was one of my friends. It was really hot, and suddenly a huge thunderstorm hit. I insisted we proceed even though it was so dark; we'd been through so much to reach the place I wasn't going to let a storm stop me! It was one of the hardest shoots I have ever done. We kept shooting until the storm had passed. It left behind an amazing ambient light which looked like a scene from a movie; one of the best natural lights I've ever seen. It was worth it and a real adventure."

What would you say are the biggest challenges with fine art photography?
"Being a fine art photographer in Egypt is really challenging because people don't understand what you're doing. People ask me, 'Do you earn money from this?' The answer is no, not at the start, because that kind of photography here is not as popular or as in demand. When you're trying to create an artistic photoshoot, it's a struggle because you spend money on sets and costumes. I don't do that anymore thankfully because people approach me now, but when I started, I spent a lot, and that's very challenging. I also have so many ideas but I can't execute them all because we have very limited resources in terms of locations here."

What's the proudest moment of your career to date?
"Becoming an Ambassador for Canon – it's been a dream forever. I wished to be one, so this is the most rewarding thing to have ever happened to me. I have other moments, but nothing can top this for me."

One thing I know

Menna Hossam


"Keep on shooting. You will not get better in a day or two; it takes years. I've seen a lot of young photographers who are in a rush to get the best camera, the best lenses, the most expensive kit on the market, but this is not what's going to make you a good photographer. I started with nothing. You keep developing from there. You have to take it step by step. Start with a medium-level camera that will deliver your purpose and practise all the time. Watch tutorials and take advice from more experienced photographers – not your friends, because your friends won't be as honest."

Facebook: @MennatullaHossam

Instagram: @mennatullah__hossam

Website: www.mennahossam.com

Menna Hossam's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Cameras

Canon EOS R

A full-frame 30.3MP sensor with impressive detail, ISO performance and Dual Pixel CMOS AF. "This camera is so light and fits well in my grip. The quality, performance and colours are outstanding, even in low light," says Menna.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

The successor to the camera Menna favours is beautifully engineered and a thoroughly accomplished all-rounder. Menna says: "This is such a fast camera, and the image quality is incredible. The durability of the camera is outstanding. It never fails me."

Lenses

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

A short telephoto focal length, combined with a large maximum aperture and fast autofocus speed, make the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM an ideal optic for any photographer shooting portraiture. "This is one of my oldest purchases and one of my favourite lenses. It's small, very light, and gives such a high performance. I often use it for my portrait work," says Menna.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional-quality standard zoom that offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. Menna says: "This is my go-to lens when I'm shooting fashion editorials. Its focal length range allows me to capture wide and close-up shots, which is sometimes essential in shoots that have a tight timeframe. The colours, sharpness and contrast are also excellent."

Accessories

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