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Egypt after the revolution

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Emine Gozde Sevim photographed an Egypt in transition

Her photos from 2011-2013 show protests in the streets, but also everyday life

CNN  — 

Five years ago, a revolution began in Egypt.

On January 25, 2011, thousands of people flooded the streets to protest poverty and corruption. Within a month, President Hosni Mubarak had stepped down after 30 years of rule.

Emine Gozde Sevim, a Turkish-born photographer based in New York, knew she had to get there.

“I was watching the news constantly, and I just wondered about life and how people were living,” she said. “I wanted to know what it means to be living and breathing when things are so unpredictable in the streets.”

She first traveled to Egypt in November 2011, just before parliamentary elections were about to begin.

Photographer Emine Gozde Sevim

“It was a very humble approach, and I didn’t have any idea for a project,” she said. “I just wanted to go and breathe the air. It was as simple as that.”

She made multiple trips over the next two years, usually every couple of months. Her work from that time culminated in a book, “Embed in Egypt.”

Sevim’s photos show the demonstrations, the raw emotions of the so-called Arab Spring. But they also show everyday life: people dancing, celebrating birthdays, enjoying amusement parks.

“My first impression was how resilient people were,” she said. “No matter how sort of iron was the fist, the people just kept resisting. … Overall, there was this hope and belief.”

Things changed rapidly in the country. In June 2012, Mohamed Morsy was sworn in as the country’s first democratically elected President. A little more than a year later, he was ousted in a military coup. Now, former Army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is in charge after being elected President in June 2014.

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    The volatility is why Sevim’s book isn’t in color.

    “That feeling that became Egypt for me for this period became something of the past very quickly. … Black and white fit in for that,” she said.

    Sevim hasn’t been back to Egypt since the coup. She’d like to go back sometime soon, to see old friends and share her book.

    “The optimism, the joy that we see people having, hope being in the streets – if that continues, it’s internal,” she said. “It’s in very private spaces, and we can’t really finger-point it. But life goes on. …

    “The ideology that fueled people to go out there is still there. As long as they’re alive, these ideologies will be alive.”

    Emine Gozde Sevim is a Turkish photographer based in New York. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram. Her book “Embed in Egypt” is available through Kehrer Verlag.