Morocco – Mesmerizing Chaos

· 24.February.2020

Traveling, constantly, in different countries, the last year, I look for dissimilarity through diversity and contrast which there is in the world. My recent destination was the country of Morocco. Morocco is located at northwest coast of Africa, wet by Atlantic Ocean and in north coast wet by Mediterranean Sea. Additionally, one endpoint located at the one side of Gibraltar’s narrow and at the south side bothering with West Sahara. For this reason, Morocco combine multicultural elements, which attracted my interest, thus my favorite subject is people’s daily life that I enjoy capturing. The difficulties that came up from this photographic journey were many. But in the end the experience that i gain from it combined with the photographs that i created, gave me a peculiar viewpoint which I’m glad to share with you in the following article.

My plan and equipment

In a period of 2 weeks, I covered 2000 km by car and many more as pedestrian; starting from Marrakesh, I visited 6 wonderful cities, including Essaouira, Fez, Chefchaouen, Meknes and Casablanca. My equipment was light consisted of 3 zoom lenses the Fujinon XF18-55mm, XF55-200mm and the XF10-24mm alongside with the Fujifilm X-T3, all in a small shoulder bag. Also, I had with me 4 batteries, 1 polarized filter, the necessarily cleanser for dust and 4 SD cards, because I use to save my photographs at the same time in 2 different SD slots to my camera in order to feel safer. My goal was to focused on distinctness from big cities to small villages, which preserve the national identity, so by extension characterize culturally the Morocco. Avoiding the touristic ways, I explored the most of Morocco’s allies. As my every journey, I waking up early morning, I having strict schedule and I photograph until the last light of the day, having a break about every 3 hours.

An exotic world

Fez’s colorful and secret allies, the wonderful blue village of Chefchaouen and the traditional costumes of local people, complemented the amazing surroundings, tracing my photos to timelessness. Furthermore, the magical atmosphere that emitted by seaside Essaouira, created a unique view to the visitor’s eye. Also, the Atlantic Ocean view and the hundred seagulls that flying above us near the fishing boats, complete this magical atmosphere. The uncountable bazaars in old Medina at every city, the rich scent of spices, combined with glint, created inside me various feelings, and lead me to spend much time to roads, in a surrounding which changed all the time by crowd. Additionally, I spend much time focused on this place than the other where I had visited before, because the Moroccan messy lifestyle contribute to exotic atmosphere which created, mixed feelings and impressions to my heart. At the end, stunned by this diverse mess, I started to organize it into my mind, I made a plan and I let my imagination free because I believe that the imagination plays a significant role in the photography and contribute a great percent in compound, so by extension in creator’s pursuance.

A challenge begins

Photographing people in the streets of Morocco is more difficult than many places in the world. Most Moroccans are being negative with anyone who wants to photograph them, no matter if that person is practicing photography, either as a tourist or for some other purpose. The main reason is that Morocco is an Islamic country with strong traditional values, so anything invading and revealing their privacy is unacceptable to them, plus it conflicts with their religion and culture. Despite being foreign-friendly this made them angry very easily. Even if I wasn’t photographing, the mere presence of the camera in my hands made them feel awkward. These conditions forced me to change and apply to the majority of my shots new techniques, which even had to do with the speed I was shooting primarily, in order to go unnoticed. Any movement towards their side was considered as a threat. Sometimes some people asked me for money to photograph them, something I highly avoided, as I am a fan of spontaneous street photography. In addition, as a human being I found myself to be influenced by their behaviors, and as much as I tried to control it, I was often overwhelmed with a little irritation, which in combination with all the heat and the varying odors in the air made my work difficult.

All these made me see the whole process of photographing there, as a challenge.

Most of the time my camera was at my waist height with its screen tilted in order to help me achieve the desired frame. The use of electronic-silent shutter and avoiding looking into people’s eyes helped me to manage and overcome a great obstacle from the start. The speed I acquired and the good handling of my Fujifilm X-T3 camera (since all dials are accessible and there was no need to enter in the settings menu) made me feel confident without wasting any of my time. Everything happened in a matter of seconds, like the instant decisions I had to make. An inner fight with myself for the “perfect shot” had just begun …

Composition and light

I found myself in sunny Morocco studying light and shadow in each of my photographs, as both of them were essential in highlighting elements such as the texture, the color and the architecture that dominated around in the city. The element of chaos that existed around was very difficult to avoid, (traffic, noisy backgrounds etc.) so it had to be somehow included in the frame but in a way that would make the photo look natural and easily “readable” to it’s viewer. The right composition in my photographs was actually the biggest factor that affected the final result. It definitely took time to achieve that but it actually leveled up all my shots. In some of them you will see multiple layers, which in a way show the multiple intensity of life in Morocco, detecting moments that cannot be repeated.

The settings I usually use in street photography is usually Auto ISO and aperture priority, in order to control the depth of field depending on the background of my subject. I also chose various film simulations. Like for example vivid film simulation with the shadows option being +1 personalizing the result in the final jpg file even more.

Going beyond your limits

During this photographic journey it was not only my patience that was practiced, but also the speed and the methods I used in order to take photos. I had the opportunity to engage with a world that is like a living museum, a historical place full of contrasts. From big cities to villages, through the centuries, people move through a blend of different cultures that constantly leaves a mark than can be found in things like the architecture of a city to people’s dresses and reactions.

To my fellow photographers preparing for a trip there, my advice is to get ready for everything, be open to learning through this journey, not only Morocco but yourselves as you will need to go beyond and extend your limits several times!

Finally, what I consider as a success of this whole project is the fact that instead of classifying the chaos, I encountered around me all the time, I managed to integrate myself into it, understanding a different culture and adapting in a rhythm unprecedented to me before.

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