The images I’m most proud of as a travel photographer, are the images captured in Morocco.
I’m one of country’s biggest detractors, finding Marrakesh, Fès and Chefchaouen absent of the charm advertised by fellow travelers. And while I did find comfort in the seedy souks of Tangier, it hadn’t been the Morocco I was promised. Not by Bourdain. Not by Frazier. Not by Burroughs. Still, there’s this image and others that recently lead me to reflect on my time traveling around Northern Africa.
This photograph was taken in Chefchaouen on a wet and charcoal like afternoon, the only Christmas Day of the 29 prior that I remember. The Berber man seen here was sitting outside his shop, likely a reserved conversationalist. Breaking beams of sunlight accentuated his worn skin, and his attire blended effortlessly into the background. It was an image I wanted desperately to capture, so I did as always and asked if I could photograph him.
“This isn’t Disneyland,” he quipped back lightheartedly. My response was quick, and just as lighthearted, “I’m aware this isn’t Disneyland. But this is a place a lot of people back where I’m from don’t know a lot about. So while I’m here, I’m hoping to capture some images that tell the story of Morocco and it’s people. I have no intention of exploiting anyone though.”
My answer sufficed, and after talking for a few more moments, he let me take five photographs. In Morocco, capturing people, capturing moments, capturing life … took work. It took days of conversations, accepting no for an answer, having one chance to get it right.
It was the first time that the universe had challenged me to create without its spoon. In past expeditions, I stumbled across something beautiful at the right time and triggered the shutter on my camera. The universe did all the work, and I just recorded it. I’ve been fortunate in this way, but it was thrilling to not have that luxury, to have to figure it out.