At 2500 metres: an appreciation of female beauty
Nomads in Morocco number around 5000 and are rapidly dwindling. The lure of education for their children and work in towns and cities for young males means the nomadic way of life is becoming less practicable. The realisation that educating children can alleviate future hardships has prompted the need to find a more permanent homestead.
For many, it’s the only life and work they know. Moving with cattle during the summer months to higher ground for grazing, the kind of stoney mountainside that is ubiquitous in Morocco, provides a source of food and some income for essential supplies but not enough money for medication to treat their animals or afford essential healthcare for families.
Although these nomads are Moroccan subjects, they often lack the documentation to prove their Moroccan nationality. The lack of legal documentation is one of the top obstacles of the nomad tribes. With no civil status, access to a documented civil marriage contract, education, health or employment is more difficult.
Despite these daily struggles, the small communities who live a nomadic lifestyle are proud of who they are but they would like better living conditions. Their wish list is for water and education; licenses to dig wells and mobile schools for children.
For nomad women life can be especially difficult. Starting their days at the crack of dawn when they leave their caves or tents to wander around the nearby mountainsides collecting water and wood on foot it can be several hours to amass what they need. Their existence is also one of isolation with limited contact to the outside world unlike the menfolk who travel to nearby villages and cities to shop for their daily necessities.
During the past year I’ve made several trips into the High Atlas region to locate families and photograph them. Women and girls have been the focus of my project. Sometimes it’s easy to find them, more often it’s a long off road drive and hike and then only through luck. Like any kind of portraiture, it’s about a connection and for a few brief minutes developing trust. For this reason I preferred women and girls for my project. The dynamic of flattery and humour sits more comfortably for both parties. There’s also the beauty of course. Women’s and girl’s eyes, make-up and clothing are hard to photographically resist. I tried to include as much context as possible without diminishing the power of the close-up. I chose to keep it simple and that for me in portrait terms is the subject before me acknowledging the camera.
About Darren Lewey
Darren Lewey is a photographer specialising in semi-abstract landscapes and realist portraiture. He graduated with a degree in photography from Derby College in 1992 before pursuing a career in television and documentaries as a director/cameraman. He is based in Morocco where he runs workshops and tours. [Official Website]