The founder of the “City Lights Stickers” project, Mohamed Diab, says that there are many Egyptian posters and memorabilia that have been lost and the hope for their restoration is dwindling. The reason for these cultural losses is the absence of institutions that sponsor the archiving, study and presentation of film-related materials.
Diab explains that he began collecting posters, also known as posters or posters, as a hobby before proceeding to document them, researching their history and those in charge of them.
Initially, the focus was on posters of aesthetic value that refer to famous films, but these standards quickly changed over time, as Diab realized the importance of many posters because they provide an understanding of the various phenomena of society, and they also help us in understanding the evolution of the artistic style of poster implementers, according to What Diab said.
Diab says that the project was born to highlight the “precious jewels” of Arab visual heritage from the twentieth century, as it seeks, on the one hand, to inform those interested in exploring these posters and the story behind each of them, and on the other hand to provide an opportunity for those interested in acquiring them wherever they are.
The group contains about a thousand posters, collected from inside and outside Egypt, from Iran to the United States, through Iraq, Oman, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco and many European countries, according to Diab.
The Egyptian cinema was very popular in many countries. However, the cinemas or the production companies did not keep the posters that were produced most of the time, so we still do not know the design of many of these posters, and what was found tends to be scarce, according to Diab.
Diab says that the name “City Lights Posters”, city lights posters, is inspired by the relationship between cinema and city life in the mid-twentieth century, when many Arab cities were filled with cinemas, the entrances of which were characterized by bright lights and colorful stickers.
According to Diab, the old Egyptian film posters have several design patterns, some of which intersect with product advertisement designs and book covers, while others are unique, which we find only on posters.
The most prominent characteristic of ancient Egyptian posters, especially when compared to their international counterparts, is the use of Arabic calligraphy in creative ways. The poster designers worked alongside two calligraphers to design titles and written elements.
Diab believed that the calligraphers had a great margin of freedom to create unique text designs and sometimes unconventional fonts, which makes the ancient Egyptian posters different from others.
Another interesting feature of Egyptian posters, Diab notes, is that they were produced in traditional lithography until late. This method was replaced by indirect smooth printing, that is, “offset”, in Europe and North America in the fifties and sixties, but it continued in Egypt until the mid-eighties, due to the high cost of offset printing machines.
Although lithography is a debilitating manual process, it requires artists to carry out the printing process, but it produces more color-rich stickers than we do with modern printing.
The collection includes very rare posters dating back to the thirties and forties, such as “Ezz El Talb” and “Sherazade”, as well as rare posters from the fifties such as “Al-Osta Hassan” and “Cairo Road”. But it cannot be said that there are posters that are more prominent or important than others, as each poster is an important historical and artistic document in itself.
Among the most prominent challenges Diab faced was finding bad and neglected posters for a long time and in need of restoration. In many cases, these posters are kept in inappropriate conditions, such as high humidity, which leads to wrinkling of the paper, and erosion by rodents and insects, or keeping the poster Folded for a long time, which sometimes requires the label to remain smooth for many years to reduce the folding effect.
Diab believes that there are several important things in poster design, including the way it reflects the spirit of the film, the consistency of colors, the arrangement of the elements, and the fonts used. And there are at least dozens of stickers that have these elements great.
Diab says that although modern posters, since the mid-1990s, have inherited the same visual components from old posters, the main difference lies in replacing modern posters for hand drawing with designs based on images and digital editing. However, this change cannot be categorized as negative or positive, as the tools available to designers today outweigh those of their predecessors.
From Diab’s point of view, he sees some decline in general in the level of modern designs, as they are often quick designs, rarely ascending to be individual pieces of art as is the case with old posters.