“Narrative can make us understand. Photographs do something else: They haunt us.” Susan Sontag
Morocco is a photographer’s delight, a study in contrasts, light and shadow. It is not an easy place for a photographer who wishes to photograph people. This most open and modern of Arab countries flirts with western tourism while remaining staunchly traditional in its heart. Tourism has accelerated and brought surface change but real life for most Moroccans remains rooted in ancient traditions and religious values. Arabic letters etched into a hillside in the Atlas Mountains read “God, Country, King”. That is the order of things.
The theme running through my mind during my time here, along with Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis”, was of “the hidden” and that is what I wanted to explore with my camera. Those aspects of a culture beyond our understanding and not ready to be shared. The exposed eyes of a Berber woman in the hijab remind me of the poppy in my garden, at the moment when it splits its pod and the orange frill spills into daylight. I discovered a sweetness in this village woman, who overcame initial shyness to play and laugh with the stranger. We found common ground in her son. Her unveiling will come, sooner or later, for better or for worse, not likely for richer.
Meanwhile, more and more tourists arrive to wander in the spice souks, marvel at the stars under the desert sky and savor the foreign. And what, I wonder, will Moroccans find to savor and admire in us? What aspects of our culture and behavior will they wish to embrace and emulate? AB 2006