By Toby Mason
For me, Marrakesh is a photographer’s paradise: a riot of vibrant colour, characters and sights that surprise around every corner. The light and atmosphere can change in an instant, from romance to mystery, from doorway, alleyway, souk to square.
Locals don’t appreciate having their image captured by a camera lens, unless you’re willing to give them handfuls of Dirham. So it pays to be agile and reasonably covert if you’re trying to harness a sense of this city through a camera lens. For that reason, on my recent visit, I decided to travel light, and my trusty Lomography LC-A+ suited my purpose perfectly.
It’s a camera that I have used regularly for the past seven or eight years, and I love its saturated and sometimes surreal colours, and the perfect imperfections that it offers, especially when loaded with slide film which is later cross-processed. With a simple zone focus as the sole setting to consider once your film is in the camera, it’s possible to move fast, committing scenes to negative before they move on and change again.
The multiple exposure switch underneath the LC-A+ is a further tool to use, particularly when legs are tired from walking through the maze of streets and paths that make up the Medina. Finding solace in one of the bars or cafés that surround many of the squares, particularly as the sun starts to set, I can start to experiment with double exposures. Layering rooftops, markets, sunsets and smoke from the footstalls, combining natural beauty with man-made craziness.
Marrakesh has so much to see, from mosques to stunning riads which are entered through nondescript doorways in bustling alleys, themselves filled with street vendors, mopeds, donkeys and more. The light is often filtered down through gaps in wooden slats which cover the narrow streets to offer protection from the African sun. Buildings are mostly low, but at their best are clad with intricate tiles and boast turrets and magnificent doorways.
But much of the once pristine architecture has been faded by years of unforgiving dessert sand and sun. For this reason, shooting it on film for me is a must. The grain, the shady vignettes, scratches and light leaks – all of these add authenticity and soul to analogue images, in my view.
Digital is a photography medium that lends itself to making images that are almost too perfect. This can be heightened further by overuse of photo-editing computer software, and as such images sometimes miss some of the realism and beautiful imperfections that exist everywhere in our world. My choice was to use a selection of six different slide films, several of which were expired, in order to work with the worn veneer of the city.
It seems fitting that to me that to get a sense of Marrakesh’s character and contrasts, that I should use the LC-A+ as my camera of choice as this is, in essence, what this camera also offers to me. It pays to spend as much time as possible looking around: into every doorway, down dark passages, up at rooftops and over the city from high up. Less time with face stuck to viewfinder, and more time drinking sights in with your own eyes.
And then, momentarily raising the camera to your eye and pressing the shutter release before moving on to the next shady street or burst of sun-drenched colour.
Kodak Elitechrome 100 (expired), Agfa CT Precisa 100 (expired), Fuji Astia 100 (expired), Fuji Provia 400x, Fuji Velvia100f, Kodak Ektachrome 100 (expired)
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