Public Republic random header image

Artist of the Week — Paul Hessel

January 18, 2010 by · 19 comments

Mariana Velichkova’s interview with the photographer Paul Hessell


What did spark your interest in Egypt and ancient history?

I have been interested in history since my grade school days; it was my favorite subject in school. At times the class ended up being a dialogue between the teacher and myself. I became intensely interested in ancient Egyptian history a few years back. The spark was an unquenchable desire to find the origin of beliefs; this kept leading me at every turn to ancient Egypt.



Tell us please about the most interesting places you have been at so far.

The trip to Abu Simbel near the border of Egypt and the Sudan was probably the most interesting. First of all a convoy of buses leave Aswan at 3 am in the morning with a police escort and drive 3 hours south through the desert. The stars at night in the desert are spectacular as well as the sunrise. Once at Abu Simbel the temples are out of this world in their majesty. Colossal statues of Ramesses II greet you that are carved into a mountain side.


I also found the drive to Abydos quite an experience as well. The road is a single lane each side with traffic speeding along at 100 km/h. There are slow moving vehicles and donkey carts to pass which the driver does without slowing down. However the traffic coming the other way does not slow down either. Somehow the road becomes 3 lanes, it’s unnerving to watch. I found I was better off reading a book than witnessing this spectacle.
Of course the 3 great pyramids on the Gizah plateau are awe inspiring; it is something that needs to be experienced in person.



The most fascinating thing/s/ in Egypt for you is…?

The most fascinating thing is the ancient reverence for their deities that existed throughout the whole land. Wherever you go, there are the relics and history of this devotion that at one time existed everywhere.


For you photography is…?

Photography is critical thinking, critical viewing and light. Life depends on this light. We think of ideas and thoughts in terms of a light-bulb. When we shine a light on things we uncover the truth. So for me light represents life, knowledge and truth. I hope a piece of that is manifested in my photographs.



In your opinion what is missing nowadays, which had existed in the ancient cultures?

This is a wonderful question! Ancient cultures were in touch with who they were as people and civilizations. Today we are drowning in a sea of materialism. The balance in our lives is hardly existent on the spiritual side and the seeker of enlightenment today is presented with a shell of what once was. Despite all our modern accomplishments we’ve lost the knowledge and spirituality that once was existent in the world.


How your pursuits in gathering more knowledge about ancient civilizations enrich your everyday life?

It definitely helps temporarily quench a thirst for knowledge I have. It’s diverse yet there is a connection, a common thread that does run through all these ancient civilizations. It’s comforting to know that from this knowledge you can get an understanding. I was never one much for faith.



Your job requires a lot of creativity, where your inspiration comes from?

The majority of my inspiration comes from my fellow workers, it’s a collaborative effort. When you see what they bring to the process it encourages you to add even more.



Have you had a photo exhibition?

No I have actually never thought about it. I do enjoy sharing my photos with whoever is interested however photography for me is something that is driven by a passion deep inside of me and I feel that it is an expression of self. To burden it with expectations would douse the spark within me.



What is the next destination you would like to capture with your camera?

Definitely I will go back to Egypt. I think I only scratched the surface, so much to see and from experience I realize now you cannot be rushed. You need to immerse yourself in your subject first and then start creating. However eventually I would like to experience India, the Middle East, Greece, Turkey and Italy.



What is your advice to those who take their first steps in photography?

We go through life looking at everything from eye level, with photography feel free to release yourself from that burden. Concentrate on what you see through the lens. Look at how the light is illuminating the scene. Don’t get caught up in technical details or the “rules” of photography at first but enjoy yourself. Take lots of pictures but as with anything in life have a passion for it. Passion is what will make you truly successful.




Paul Hessell was born in 1967 and he currently lives in Holland Landing, Ontario, Canada. His work takes him to Toronto during the week. He works at an entertainment company as a visual effects editor responsible for crafting brand sells, promotional material, image spots and full length shows for the various television stations under the company umbrella.

His history as a photographer is a tale that follows the path of his life. He has a strong background in mathematics and problem solving and spent his formative years seeing numbers and statistics as pictures. To best describe his abilities as a photographer a few years ago would conjure adjectives such as mediocre, acceptable, and needs improvement! However something hit him when middle age arrived a couple years ago and he had an unquenchable desire to open up his mind to the world around him. A byproduct of allowing yourself to see again is to observe and enjoy what is around you. Photography is a natural extension of this.

His passion led to him to seek out truth and knowledge and this kept pulling him to learn as much about the ancient civilization of Egypt as possible. He was fortunate enough to win an award for creativity at work last year and with the award he was able to travel to Egypt and immerse himself in Ancient Egypt and photography. Not only does photography expand your critical thinking skills, it is also something he finds rewarding when shared.


Related posts ↓

19 comments so far ↓

  • Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!