After Flandin ….

At La Maison de la Photgraphie is a collection of monochrome images of Morocco, beautifully presented and lovingly protected.  In their own words “[La Maison] is a place where memories are shared, ideas are exchanged and links are forged between people. We showcase original photographs of Morocco from the 1870s right up until the 1950s. It is one of the few places in existence which gives access to the photographic memory of Morocco in all its richness.

I recommend the exhibition to photographers enjoying Marrakech – indeed to anyone interested in historic imagery of this quality.  In some ways it shows that nothing much has changed in the souks and around the mosques, in others just how different the world has become.  The images are timeless and the guides are happy to tell you about the 1,200 glass slides they have in their archives, about the addition of potato starch to the development process to deliver colour images (something I’d never heard before) and they provide background to each of the portraits reproduced in the foyer.  There are mysterious women from the Harem, portraits of slaves, Berbers and images of the souks.  I loved a fascinating portrait which appears to be of a beautiful woman but is in fact a young man. Another is of a slave boy standing against a stone wall – a composite image in which the background has been added, much as we’d do with Photoshop today.  The images were very controversial at the time (early 20th century), as photographers began to play with photography as “art”.

Walking through the souk I tried to recreate some of the drama Flandin captures in his image from 1920 (below mine).  I was shooting discreetly, trying to get the shafts of light streaming through the canopy into the smoky atmosphere.  Today that thick atmosphere is caused by motor bike fumes rather than open fires!  The images was far too dark, it was just a “grab” shot, but some manipulation with Snapseed on my iPad as I flew home last night draws out the atmosphere I hope.

My attempt at capturing the light in the souk inspired by Flandin.

“Dans les Souks, Fez” by M Flandin, 1920

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