Road from Marrakech to Zagora – Morocco Recce

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photographers journal photographers blog silvergumtype by james nader

“The heart of a fool is in his mouth, the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.” (Moroccan Proverb) Morocco (the full Arabic name is Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah which translates into “The Western Kingdom”) 

In times past, Western Sahara or Morocco to be precise has featured in many film productions and photoshoots. Its climate is perfect for our winter and allows commercial shoots to prevail. Films such as The Mummy filmed at the famous studios in Ouarzazate, other blockbuster productions include GladiatorGame of ThronesJewel of the Nile and The Man Who Would be King to name just a few. I too have been lucky for the opportunity to work in Morocco on two previous occasions. 

Desert bound for two clients I have travelled from the Atlas mountains right down to Zagora and the Western Saraha made famous by the song of Loose Ends.

Film was the chosen medium with plenty of polaroids. Below are some of my images taken on polaroid as a location finder recce in advance of the team arriving. Recce location hunting is really exciting in unusual and interesting locations and countries. You do have to be aware these days it can unsafe in such countries. I would always advise paying for the local guide to look after you and to negotiate the pitfalls of working on location.

For this particular location recce, the trip was to head from Marrakech to Zagora and not Timbuktu which was the famous Silk Road to Mali. A team of 20 would be arriving some 4 days later and locations had to be planned.

Driving in Morocco is a dangerous activity as the roads are not the best and traffic not always obeying road markings. Use a film production company or guide is well-advised. Whilst you can still go to the country its best to  be aware of travelling outside of zones. It can be a little scary especially at the various checkpoints spattered throughout the routes.

Be aware of pointing your camera at people, less so in the city but more in the provinces. We had one such problem near to an oasis which was super and a classic look of date palms, water, donkeys and the brown mud buildings and kasbah 

(In Morocco the Arabic word form of kasbah frequently refers to multiple buildings in a keep, a citadel, or several structures behind a defensive wall.)

I pointed my camera at a small group of traditionally dressed women in. They immediately were offended and this escalated very quickly. Men poured out from everywhere and began following us.

We quickly moved backwards, turned and fled to the relative safety of our Nissan Patrols. We managed to drive away unscathed but travellers should be aware, especially these days with smartphone image captures.

This little photograph of the local youngsters was a happy moment. They were all more than happy to have their photograph taken. Early evening we spent walking around the 

Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou

All the way along we looked for great landscapes and anything else which could be needed. Careful with the of food if you have a delicate stomach, I would recommend Chicken Tagine as the food is cremated in a way that will kill off any germs. I had already learned this from my previous experience where I noticed how the chef waved his hands across a fly-ridden chicken and proceeded to cook our meal.

This gentleman was a Tuareg or a Blue Man of the desert wearing his classic blue outfit. We. were welcomed into his tent for a lovely cup of mint tea. Sweetened quite a lot and maybe an acquired taste.

Location recce was always shot Polaroid these were then cut and pasted into my location polaroid book, later after dinner I would share this with the client and from there I would work on model selection and clothes selection in readiness for the shoot and these images or some of them anyway are featured below.

The square in Marrakech is famous for coming alive in the early evening in a melting pot of creative food processes and pop up restaurants.

The whole trip meant a lot of driving and we had taken a guide for safety, at some parts of the journey there were checkpoints but also at this time in the world you can’t be too careful. We had shot all of the landscapes with the ultra-wide format Fuji 617 film camera shooting 4 frames per 120 roll, all on Fujichrome and not in digital format.

Unfortunately, I only have some scanned pages from my polaroid books that remain and regret that I have no others but I plan to share these in the coming weeks.

I would love to go back shooting documentary photography documented the whole country and its rich heritage. Interesting that you can still enjoy the ambience even when working for clients. it is all about the balance and trust you set up in advance.

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