Honey and Vinegar
I was overwhelmed. I think that is a fair assessment of my first encounter with the mayhem of Marrakesh. I was in Morocco on assignment for the Times and Marrakesh was my ground zero. Of course I had heard many stories about the city’s legendary appetite for hassling tourists. But instead of fearing it, I saw it as challenge: Can I get my pictures without being driven mad by carpet salesman?
The answer is yes and no. As a photographer – especially one who specialises in people – it is an absolute necessity to engage with potential subjects. So I turned the hassle on its head and began to harass the harrassers. Nothing shuts the mouth of a hubbly bubbly salesman quicker than a snapper who won’t take no for an answer. After a few short days, I was a well-known sight among the colourful souks. I was getting my images with the same kind of tactics employed by the locals: a bit honey followed by a splash of vinegar.
Being a reportage photographer means developing a hide like a rhinoceros while at the same time having the ability to turn on the charm, even if you don’t speak the language. It means, as world-renowned photographer James Natchway said, “being able to look at the world with an unflinching eye and still get the picture.”
Since that first blush with Morocco I have been back many times. I’ve shot books for Lonely Planet Publications, worked on other newspaper and magazine assignments and returned just because I love the country. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many places in Morocco and can say with hand on heart that I have only just scratched the surface.
It is a country of burning deserts with towering sand dunes, jagged snow-covered peaks, ancient cities with bustling markets and a people that look as though they have just stepped off the pages of a history book. And for photographers, enthusiasts and professionals alike, it is the perfect combination of colour, scents and sounds. It’s as if the whole country was created with photographers in mind.