Photographing Moroccan children
[Soft Piano Music]
I'm almost putting myself and the work a little bit under a magnifying glass, and I look at pictures that I've done the day before, the year before, or 10 years before and I'm quite critical of my own work. So, therefore if I know go to somebody else's work and criticize it, which is always easy in an armchair to do that, that I think one of the things that photographers tend to be sometimes, and I'm always fighting this myself, they tend to be a bit lazy. So, therefore beginning a project like Morroc, you have to do homework. You have to knuckle down and begin to prepare. Now sometimes if a photographer prepare means I've checked my lenses, batteries, strobes, they're all working; sync cards are working. You know, everything's working. That's preparation and of course that's a fraction of preparation. So the preparation for Morroc really involved, as I said before, history, involved the geography of the country, what's in the south, what's in the north. Now-a-days...
you have this wonderful thing the internet, back then in '98 I didn't have the internet, I wasn't really plugged in at that point. The work involved me going to libraries ti fond every book I could in Morocco and the history of Morocco, I read about the country, read about the history. I read about the different people here, why was some part of the country were they speaking Arabic, why were they speaking French, why were they speaking in Berber. The Berber's were the original inhabitants of Morocco. Therefore, you have to do your homework, and not only are you planning visually, am I going to do portraits, am I going to do environmental portraits, am I going to do textual things regarding the architecture of the country. Am I going to do subjects in the environment, as in a building or against a big sky or a big mountain, or whatever. All of this has to really be noted down in a sketch book of ideas and that preparation you should have a big whole shloo of things. Now having planned it, us photographers say I don't like planning I like to be spontaneous, that does not mean to say that you're not going to be spontaneous, I'm driving down the road I might have a plan for the day, and I'm driving down the road and I see something that interested me like a child by the road side, or something like that and I hadn't planned that shot but I see it. So there is a combination of being spontaneous and being planned. Being there with your ideas that you preconceived, but then you have to be open to things right in front of you that were not planned. Photograph of a child standing on an old stone house, I saw as we drove by this kid that was selling pottery by the road side, on the road between Ouarzazate and Tavertan further South, and there was just something about this little child who turned out to be a ten year old child selling pottery probably to make some extra money for the family, and he was alone in this gigantic desert and mountains and so on, so I thought there is something nice about this child, this tiny child in this huge environment with desert behind him then snow covered mountains on the horizon line with a dark sky so I stopped there and I selected a 60 mm lens that I felt pushed the mountains away a little bit and gave me the right proportion of child to environment. I put a very small strobe into, just a little bit off camera, to just give a little bit of vibrance to the white jilaba that he was wearing. So it's a shot that I like, I use a red filter and black and white triax, but it's a shot that I liked in the end. I felt like I was able to capture something of the loneliness of this child in big environment. So I think this idea of planning, yes you can discover something like I discovered that child, and you can begin to build a shot as you go along. I hadn't planned to use a strobe but then I realized that it would be better with a strobe. I hadn't planned to use the red filter, but then I felt better that the sky is darker because it emphasizes the snow on the mountains. So therefore it, sometimes people say how did you know how to do that? I think once again it is all part of being absolutely passionate about photography, learning how can I use technique to make this a better picture, and how can I make sure that it's just not boring is a technique so it truly is a balance between the creative and the technical, and that shot of the child there, is quite a good balance there, it's graphic. One of the secret things I am always looking for is memorability, that is kind of a major thing in photography you want people to remember that shot you know. [Soft Piano Music] There are two pictures here, the first one is, I was driving a mountain road, and there was a young child just walking on her own, and the mountain road is the road between Marrakech and Ouarzazate and it's the high atlas mountains. She was a villager living in the mountain Berber I stopped to ask her, my Moroccan friend said lets go down to the village ans ask the the father if it is OK to photograph his daughter, which was politeness. So I was able to kind of set up a shot I was hoping to do, and the father eventually came and gave permission to photograph the daughter and I se up for this picture once again a small strobe, and you can see the mountains behind her. She was actually wonderful to photograph. There was a wonderful naturalness, she wasn't self conscious at all, she just followed my direction, followed what I wanted her to do, and there was almost an innocence and naivety when she looked at the camera like why am I doing this sort of thing. I didn't have to do a lot of communication, but before the father arrived I did through the interpreter speaking to her and ask her what she was doing, where was she going; she was going to her aunt's house and so on; so speaking to people is always a wonderful thing. It helps you get a better picture when you communicate with people, that you work with people a little bit before, especially children. That picture I believe in the end was a straight forward silver gelatin print. You take the negative into the dark room, you run silver gelatin paper and you make the print and you hope that you have a good exposure on your strobe and a good exposure on your background to make sure there is a good harmony between front and back. That was essentially, the portrait of a child in the mountains. Now the second one is a portrait once again done in Lyon in the South. She is a Saharawis. More of a Bedwin Berber from the South, but it is a definite tribe, Saharwis. She was in a small group of tents and I came across her beautiful child. It was actually done the same way again just coincidentally with the strobe. The strobe is a further distance this time so the strobe is softer. The original shot, the original negative, this is much softer so when you go into the dark room I increased a little bit the contrast, using a slightly more contrasted paper. A grade three paper as opposed to a grade two normal paper. That gives the picture a little more contrast and a little bit more weight. But one is a child in the mountains and the other one is a child in the desert. Once again it's communication with the child but also communication with the family, so you reassure them that you're doing something very nice for them. Usually we give the family the Polaroid one. We do two, one for us and one for them. The Polaroid would be entered into our diary of events for the day and the other one they proudly would keep the Polaroid. I have actually gone back to some of these places and driven through and been stopped by somebody and they tell me that they still have the Polaroid from 20 years ago ad they have it on a wall in their house. So it is quite, quite sweet. [Soft Piano Music]