“Finding themselves lost in translation, the photographers, instead of avoiding barriers, embraced and overcame them, both visually and intellectually,” explains Simon Njami, the exhibit’s curator.
The 5 photographers chosen for this project attacked it from all different angles. Mikhael Subotsky shot videos of the city from the back of a motorcycle, using a small camera on a stick like how one might shoot a ski video.
“I was vulnerable, by now you’ve seen how people drive in Marrakech,” Subotsky jokes. “And also, I was safe. I didn’t have to interact. It was a way of mediating between myself and the world.”
Susan Meiselas, took a different approach, setting up a small photo-booth in Jemma el-Fnaa square where she paid women to let her take portraits of them.
“It was tough,” Susan Meiselas says. “I’m completely uncomfortable as a tourist. For the first few days, I couldn’t find a window, an entry place, I really struggled with it.”
The result of her struggle may be the most powerful of the exhibit. Her portraits are made even stronger by the 20 MAD bills taped to the walls where portraits used to hang but were taken down at the request of the woman or one of her family members.
“One of the woman who I photographed came to the exhibit with her sister and when she saw it, she said it was shameful for her to have let her photograph be taken,” Meiselas says. “You can see the social mentality of the women when they see their photograph on the wall.”
The only consistency of the exhibit is inconsistency, the differences of experience from one photographer to the next shines through in every picture.
“War is coherent place to work, you have a defined role, you know your role,” Meiselas explains. “Here, I had to find my role as an image maker, we all had to find it, and you see that in work.”
The Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts hopes that this is the first of many successful exhibitions. The hope is to create a space where the rich culture of Marrakech can be seen by all, tourists and locals.
“I worry that there is no cultural place here [in Marrakech] and culture is being lost because of it,” explains David Knaus, the managing director of the museum. “We wanted to create a new cultural place, one that the people of Marrakech can take ownership of.”
The exhibition is on display at the Badi Palace (Palais El Badii) in Marrakech. There’s a 10 MAD entry fee into the palace grounds, but the exhibit itself is free. It is open daily from 9:00am – 4:00pm.