Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech
With an afternoon off we decided to visit the photography museum in Marrakech – a fitting choice for a group of creatives with cameras in hand.
A tiny entrance among the bustling laneways led us into a three-story, traditional riad style building with a terrace overlooking the thriving city of Marrakech. Beautifully clean white walls were the background to the thin black frames holding the photographs. The museum was full of documentary portraits and landscapes of Moroccan history from as early as 1850. They were beautiful and intimate but surprisingly, not so far from the Moroccan streets I had just stepped away from.
It was opened by Patrick Menac’h of Paris and Hamid Mergani of Marrakech after they realised they were both collecting vintage Moroccan photography. 4500 photos, 2000 glass negatives and 80 documents made up the museum organised in region and theme including a rare, full-colour 1957 documentary shot in Morocco.
Each photograph was labelled with a plaque next to it containing information about its photographer. Floor upon floor of incredible moments captured and we couldn’t help but come back to admire the portraits featured in the main entrance by Jean Besancenot. Designer, painter and photographer, his life’s work centred around capturing the essence of Morocco through a combination of gathering information and artistic expression. Arriving in 1934 he fell in love with the country and travelled until 1939 gathering research to write a book about the traditional costumes and accessories of different ethnic groups. The success of his work was attributed to the relationships he developed with his subjects.
His work today is of particular interest due to the fact that a lot of the information he collected during this time would otherwise no longer be available, because of the extremely rapid evolution of traditional customs, costumes and ornaments in Morocco. Introducing photography as a methodical choice of field investigation his work acted as scientific evidence while its rich ethnological aspect also qualified it as artistic gesture.
The museum also featured the documentary works of artists such as Daniel Chicault, Didier Madras and Nicolas Muller all capturing the essence of Moroccan history and enabling its continual existence.
We could have circled around the walls for hours, picking out more and more detail but when we finally climbed onto the terrace to enjoy a cool drink we couldn’t help but chuckle at the landscape before us. From the ground, a city seemingly untouched by technology, became a sea of satellite dishes standing tall like flowers among the rooftops.
By Sarah xx
Images by Kate Lewis and Lilli Boisselet