Thursday’s Picture of the Week: Morocco

Photo of a Moroccan woman wearing a hijabBehind the scenes: It’s 1999 and Jeffrey is photographing on assignment in Morocco for Travel Holiday. The story he is working on highlights the important role women play in this North African country, even though many are not allowed to work.

As Jeffrey strolls around the lively Jemaa el Fna Marketplace in Marrakesh’s old medina quarter, he breathes in the savory aromas of late afternoon. Along the way he photographs an array of vendors selling fruit, spices and kabobs as well as several flamboyant water sellers, fire eaters and snake charmers.

In the midst of this bustling scene, he notices a woman wearing a blue hijab. Her striking almond-shaped eyes dance beneath her blue head covering as she paints intricate henna designs onto a woman’s hands.

Jeffrey is intrigued, so through his interpreter, he asks the woman if she would mind if he made a portrait of her. Her eyes instantly light up, unmistakably flattered. Looking around though, she quickly replies in an overly loud voice, “No, I’m sorry, I cannot without my husband’s permission.”

Map of MoroccoEvery nearby vendor is now watching. She glances down at the ground and shakes her head, then looks at Jeffrey with a feisty twinkle in her eye before she repeats: “No, I’m sorry, my husband would need to give you permission.”

Jeffrey can tell she is up to something, and would clearly like to have her picture taken, so he says louder than usual, “Yes, of course, no problem. I understand. But do you think it would be okay if I just photographed your hand to show your beautiful henna artwork?”

“Oh yes, of course…of course.” she replies, her eyes indicating her happiness that they have figured out a way to make this work. “That would be no problem,” she says again, if it is just showing off my artwork.”

“Great,” Jeffrey says as he brings his camera up to his eye.

Then he lowers his camera back down. “But do you think you could bring your hand up to your chin so that your artwork shows up better in the picture?” he asks, grinning.

She knows exactly what Jeffrey is doing and quickly raises her hand near her face, Jeffrey shoots a few frames, then the artist quickly goes back to painting another woman’s hand, while all other vendors go back to their own business.

Jeffrey is sure that he has just created a stunning portrait—one that symbolizes the beauty and strength of Moroccan women. He also senses that this woman, by navigating around the suffocating constraints of her culture, feels a tiny bit more empowered by her conspiracy in this photographic moment.

To see a few more of Jeffrey’s images from Morocco, click on the fire eater below:

Photo of a fire eater in Marrekesh, Morocco

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26 thoughts on “Thursday’s Picture of the Week: Morocco

  1. That is such a beautiful photograph, and a beautiful story.
    I have a feeling that is the the story of the female race: you never can keep a good woman down. We are brave, creative and resourceful, and we can always find a way.

    Juliet

  2. What a beautiful shot . . . and the twinkle in her eyes shows a mischievious side of this mysterious woman. A delightful story! LOL

    And thank you for your comment. Left a message there . . .

  3. Exquisite . . .And how could you not help but love the unstated here, the deft negotiation that resulted in the perfect shot, empowering indeed. There’s something to be said, too, for capturing such stunning (hidden) beauty. btw, I once did a writing workshop focusing on eyes and hands. Among the photos I used as reference points were Wendy Ewald portraits of Saudi women. You may know her work. If not, I have no doubt you’d appreciate it.

    • Deborah, your writing workshop sounds fabulous! Eyes and hands are rich in description and meaning. I’m curious to check out Wendy Ewald’s portraits. Thanks for the tip, and thanks for swinging by my blog again. It’s always nice to see you here!

  4. Beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

    You took me back in years to when I have visited Morocco twice. I was amazed with the culture, people, cuisine, architecture and Atlas Mountains. Looking at the photo of this beautiful woman I’m thinking about how her eye makeup was (most likely) applied. If it was done in a traditional way, there was so eye pencil or eyeliner. They use an orange wood stick and a dark powder made by grinding some local rock (can’t remember now what’s called). I might still have a tiny bottle of it and an intricately carved orange wood stick. Ah, memories…

  5. Gorgeous! Gorgeous eyes, gorgeous artwork on the hand and nails… but I think I like her spunky spirit best of all – and Jeffrey’s inventiveness.

  6. I love, love, LOVE this photo! Simply stunning in the woman’s beauty and Jeffrey’s ability to capture it so well. I can’t help but wonder where she is today . . .

    • I’m so glad! I have to admit, I love it too–particularly her eyes. Pure radiance. I’ve often wondered where she is too, and what her life is like. Hopefully her spirit has taken her past any limitations her culture may have placed on her.

  7. Hi Becky, Such a magnificent, bold photograph. I love the colors. The color of her face and hand against the cobalt blue, and her amazing eyes. So dramatic. You can see the care she takes in her appearance so it’s no wonder she’d want her photo taken. I’m glad Jeffrey figured out how best to do it.

    • This woman’s eyes are what bowl me over. No matter how many times I look at this photograph I’m still dazzled by them. Thanks for swinging by my blog again and taking the time to comment. It’s always great to see you here!

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