Handprints of Blood

Street photography is all about telling stories. 

“Learning what you don’t want to photograph is only half of the battle, though a large half. It’s also the half which can be put into words.” 

Handprints of blood, an Egyptian ritual to dip hands in the blood of the sacrificial animal and to put prints all over the clothes, walls, street, ect. If you ask any Egyptian where and how this ritual came by, most would struggle to give you an answer, while they will just say, “This pushes evilness away,” or, “Traditinal good-luck charm,”. This, however, is an unproven superstition. After some quick research, I found that this ritual dates back to 909-1171 during the Fatimid era and when the city of Cairo was  established.

When I was invided to witness slaughtering of a sacrificial animal at the streets of Manshiyad Naser, Cairo I had no clue what to expect. What happened there, as a preparation for the wedding ceremony next day, is still stuck in my mind.

The streets were chaotic, men and children, wearing white dresses, gathered around the sacrificial animal. Then everything happened in a matter of seconds. The animal was dragged into the middle of the street. It was one quick swipe of the knife, in order to avoid any pain. Children run over to the scene to dip their hands in the fresh blood and start running around, slapping their handprints on walls, on the other men’s clothes, on the groom’s house, and anything else that they can reach. As I’m carefully trying to navigate my way around the puddles of blood in the street with my camera in my hands, they all were shouting and were asking me to take photos of them. 

Should I photograph them, the animal, the blood on the street, the handprints?

As Grazia Neri, founder and President of a Photo Agency in Italy says ”The camera is a different tool from a pen… Photographs can show a real scene but it can also be a huge arm to hurt people… Each of us reacts to the picture on the basis of our own sensitivity, culture, intelligence, mood and passion. What is more, the interpretation of one and the same photograph will be different at different times. A photograph produced today will offer a different impact tomorrow.”

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