Taking photographs while travelling is something so apparently normal that most people probably don’t even think about it. I like to think I’ve got the balance just right between taking the time to take some good shots and not spending all my time with the thing glued to my face. I’ll always remember the couple we met up with in Jaisalmer, in north-west India. One woman obsessively videotaped every single thing they did, while the other couldn’t look at anything without snapping a photo of it (she said she’d rather go home with too many photos than too few). And this was back in the pre-digital days, so imagine her processing and printing bill… And obviously countries don’t come much more photogenic than India, where it’s very difficult to take a bad photo. But I don’t want to experience a country only through my viewfinder. I want to be able to appreciate the visual aspects of a place without seeing everything as a potential photo.
For example, on first entering the souks of Marrakesh I felt like I could have spent all day shooting the stalls and the shafts of sunlight poking through the trellis roofs, but when I went back the next day I decided that I’d exhausted it as a subject, and it was actually a relief to be able to wander around with the camera stowed away in my bag (I even left it back at the hotel one day) and just look, without feeling the need to grab all those potential shots. They’re also so cluttered as to be visually overwhelming, and I was much more comfortable simply looking at them as a scene than trying to search them for something I wanted to buy.
Marrakesh was also the first holiday where I took along a video camera. Partly it was easier to manage as we were travelling without children, partly it was because, due to a couple of recent purchases my video camera is now smaller than my stills camera. The resulting footage is pretty rough, but I wanted to capture some of the atmosphere of the main square, Djema el Fna, and I felt that motion and, more importantly, sound would help with that.
But one of the main frustrations in Morocco was the locals’ attitude to cameras. Most of them are very sensitive about having their photos taken. I always asked permission (unless I was zooming in on someone from the other side of a crowded square), and most said no, although a couple of them accepted payment of one dirham (about 90 euro cents) in exchange for a few posed shots. It’s a shame, as the people’s faces were often the most interesting thing to see.
The ones I didn’t take photos of stay just as much in my mind as those I did, especially the young blind woman shuffling through the souk with no dog or cane, just holding her hands out in front of her at hip height.
The full set of Marrakesh photos can be seen here.