AIR: Part One

A story to fall for and words to love!
I am keeping this on my own blog so I keep re-reading it.. Fabulous!

Jess Dewes

On January 30th, 2014, a woman walked into my photography studio carrying a tote bag full of oxygen tanks and jewelry. She smiled at me from under the hose that disappeared into her nostrils and I fell for her instantly.

On film, first meeting, 1/30/14.

A few months prior to the day Julie VonderHaar came to my studio for a portrait, I was invited to be part of a group photography show at a gallery called SOHA in South St. Louis, MO.  I was informed that the theme of the exhibit was simply AIR. Each photographer (8 total) was to interpret the theme however they liked and create something for the show. As a businessperson, exhibiting in shows like this is rarely lucrative, but the artist in me couldn’t resist the opportunity to stretch a bit beyond my work portfolio of baby portraits, corporate head shots, and wedding documentation.

I knew…

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The story of the Leather Jacket

Saber (Main Character)

Saber, the charming young man was driving his white cap to catch his ‘noon time’ breakfast with his peers, or perhaps just people’s of Cairo- on the metal standing vehicle, one that was reflecting Cairo’s golden sun, decorated with small metal bowels filled with tomatoes,  green onions arranged in a flower bouquet manner,  calling everyone to help themselves to garnish  their morning Foul (beans) & Falafel dish, the aroma of the very Egyptian bread slices that filled the morning breeze. A place that witnessed millions of Egyptians morning stories and extended salutations. Weather, politics, electricity & water frequent cuts, or maybe non but empty conversations that united them!

He parked his white cap just near to his favorite Foul vehicle and walked in steady steps toward it, the young man who is (was)  in his mid twenties has always walked in steadiness to his goals, that was only before his dad had an accident that left him with a major injury that didn’t allow him to work anymore

Living in a poor area of Old Islamic Cairo, where people didn’t only knew each others well because of how near houses were, but also they’ve went through a lot, enough to make them understand what’s behind the faces they meet every day.  the young man learned to be selective when it comes to picking his passengers… an old woman standing a few meters away was moving her left hand in a wave for him and holding her bag with her right one, she the young man stopped to give her a  lift and she thought that she’ll  first have to discuss her destination and if he’s switching his “meter” on or not, only to be surprised with him firmly saying: “good morning mother, please get in safe first, I’ll drive wherever is your destination don’t worry about it”

She smiled at him, filled with enthusiasm for his uncommon polite manner; opened the door and sat beside him, when he started to drive she was already on and off looking, maybe weirdly starring for a few seconds at him in attempt to start a road conversation she began saying: “How weird that you don’t listen to music?!”

He replied: “yeah, you are right” followed by a smile that holds a certain affirmation on what she’s saying!

Feeling unaccomplished, she repeated differently, sounding like a fortune cookie “But you deserve some fun and music son, you know!!” looking directly to his eyes insisting to deliver that delightful smile on her face to him, as if she means more than just her words…

Second-Hand Market Description (Whereas Saber will buy the magical leather jacket that changes his life ‘forever’)

Merchants shouts, layers and layers of clothes are there for sale, some are thrown in squared shaped boxes others are just put into categories and hanged on endless queues of inverted U-shape piece of metal. The (ground) is muddy and if lucky it is dusty in some other places! Heavy grayish smoke is filling the air above the crowds, so tight packed it seems impossible to  walk from one merchant to the next, but  get yourself involved and you’ll learn how to cat-walk! One look at the place and you can tell that millions of untold stories are hanged waiting to be entangled…

In Souq Al-Talat there is a whole world inside the real world-or perhaps that is how a real world is (operates) one that is begging to be unleashed. People, clothes and thousands of stories..

Uniquely located just under 6th of October Bridge, A bridge that connects the south wing of the capital to its north, connecting the lives of millions of Egyptian people, providing them with paved roads from a bird’s eye view and hundreds of loopholes where some of them have built up a place they call “OURS”- selling 2nd hand clothes for those who think it suits them best!


As a child, I’ve definitely experienced wearing in my older cousins hand-me-downs, and I still have a really elegant dress that’s originally belong to one of my cousin’s. I didn’t ‘need’ it nor I will, it was always there along the past 15 years because I think it is timeless and precious and most importantly it was always ‘my’ choice either to accept taking it in the first place or not.

One day I was looking over my mother’s in-law engagement photos & I came across this one, where she wore a long-sleeved lightly-golden maxi dress, she looked like a classical movie star, and honestly I couldn’t help it. Knowing that I am an expressive person in nature, I praised how gorgeous she looked wearing that dress and having her hair done in a very simple yet elegant up-do. A red flower on her golden-brown hair complemented the way she looked. “Simply stunning!” I said.

She then, insisted that “I have to have it!” she said. and I would never turn such an offer down. “She had it sewed for her own engagement, she looked striking, and she’s enjoying a pretty long marriage life” I thought to myself. I’ve always believed that happiness can be ‘inherited’ just by wearing/having what once marked a happy event – like this one.

Her dress, my way..!

Her dress, my way..!

What helped resonating this kind of belief in me was once a middle-aged lady, who looked simple, elegant and just charming by offering me and my-back then- fiance (and now is my husband) her, and her husbands’ wedding rings, to wear them for the period of our engagement party till we get our own done and re-sized. She justified her offer saying “We had a quite successful and happy 30 years of marriage life” and calmly smiled.

The rings in Arabic calligraphy reads "Love bring us together, who dares to get us apart"

The rings in Arabic calligraphy reads “Love bring us together, who dares to get us apart”

Aromatic recipes, great cooking books, some hard-to-buy kitchen machines a gold-ruby jewelry set, and a passionate loving heart are only a few things my mom handed-me-down (If I can put it this way!)

But what really kept me thinking for the past couple of years was; how does it feel -not having the choice- but to dress in someone else’s hand-me-downs?!!

An insistent question that popped to my mind, the day I came across one of Cairo’s largest second-hand clothes market. It gave me my first short story idea (that was never finished) “The leather Jacket that changed his Life”!