Morocco, a country seemingly out of time and space, boasts a population of over 33 million people. It offers a unique ethnic diversity, which weaves together a rich tapestry of Arab, indigenous Berber, Sub-Saharan African, and European cultures. As such, street portraiture is an enjoyable endeavor for the well-rounded travel photographer.
To successfully capture street portraits, one must have mastered the art of asking people on the street for a portrait and have the ability to capture them at their best, preferably showing some context. One problem is that many people display a certain level or diffidence, if not an outright refusal, at being photographed. Add to that the language barrier, and you have the perfect recipe for frustration.
There are exceptions, of course. The ladies weaving carpets in Rabat were especially nice (but asked for money). The man sewing clothes in Chefchaouen didn’t speak a word of English or French. But he showed his address so we could send him a print of his portrait. The man selling what we could only assume was some kind of snake oil in Meknès’ main square was demanding our attention, and a photograph or two was quickly and silently negotiated in exchange for it.
On the other side of the coin, we got our share of nasty looks and a group of cheeky kids showing us the finger, but that didn’t deter us.
Our finest moment was when we mustered our courage and best French, and approached a dignified patriarch in white traditional garb. He was sitting on a bench with his wife, his children, and grandchildren, and we asked for a portrait, to which they kindly consented. The conversation that ensued ended with them inviting us over for dinner in exchange for the portraits. That’s what you call true hospitality!
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I would like to thank Christin McLeod for providing invaluable help in proofreading and editing the text of these articles.