It was difficult to take photos in Morocco, particularly in Marrakech. The first time I tried to photograph something I was called a motherfucker, the second time, a bitch, and so on. I have never been sworn at so much by so many people I don't know. And I don't consider myself an aggressive photographer. If I want a portrait of someone, I ask them, and if they refuse, I don't take one. Some of the people who were abusing me weren't even going to be in my photo. Some would maybe have been part of a street scene, and some were behind me and ran to tell people who were in front of me that I was photographing them. Sometimes all it took to be told to fuck off was for me to be holding my camera, pointing it at nothing and no-one.

I can understand people of any country not wanting to feel like, or be treated like, exhibits, but to actively bully visitors is wrong. Could be them wanting to take a photo of your beautiful city, culture or face is a form of compliment. On the other hand, it could be that they're the lowest form of image-thieving scum. I don't particularly like having my photo taken either, but I know which I'd like to assume first. This is an over-documented world. Facebook and Instagram are awash with photos of people's dinners and breakfasts, as if we'd all want to have a bite. Go see a band and most people are watching it through cameras and phones, as if they'll need proof later that they were actually there. And it's the same with travel; tourists photographing everything that moves and everything that doesn't, taking squillions of frames they'll be too overwhelmed to deal with later on in a misguided attempt to capture and remember everything they're going to forget, purely because they didn't experience it to begin with. So I respect any culture that, in some way, forces visitors to consider actually experiencing a place, rather than just dabbing at its surfaces through a lens, but not through abuse. 

After asking several people why the level of hostility was so high there seemed to be two main reasons: a misunderstanding of why people would want a photograph, and fear of the evil eye coupled with a fear of Photoshop. That is, tourists are taking photos to laugh at the people in them for e.g. being poor or different, or to Photoshop their heads onto something inappropriate - a pig say, or Jesus. Now, I understand the cultural relevance of the evil eye - the Red Dao people of Vietnam don't like being photographed for similar reasons - and there must be some tourists who do dickish things to their photos once they get home. Who knows, perhaps someone, at some point, sneaked a photo of me and pasted my face to a cow's udder. But to assume that everyone has bad intentions is kind of sad, and possibly counter-productive. I've never considered doing mad Photoshop voodoo with any of my pictures before, but if I'd spent longer than I did in Marrakech it might have crossed my mind.

Anyway, to avoid this post getting too boo-hoo, I would like to thank the people of Morocco for forcing me to look at their country with unobstructed eyes. And, by way of thanks, I would like to offer them the following description of a photograph I would have taken if I wasn't too shit-scared to get my camera out and feel like I was letting myself and the world down again. I think this photo, had I taken it, would have been one of the best I'd ever taken. But nevermind, here's what it would have looked like.

Please, picture the scene. You are in Essaouira, on the North Atlantic coast of Morocco. It's springtime, and it's kind of cold. A breeze is blowing and carries to you the cries of seagulls. You're in the Medina, where all the buildings are painted white, on one of the main streets that run from one side of the city wall to the other. This street is full of life; there are butchers shops with huge cow carcasses hanging in front of them; grocers stand behind huge pyramid piles of olives; old men in hooded robes crouch along the paving stones; donkeys stand tethered to wooden carts. You step off the street into a dark little tea shop and order a pot of mint tea. You talk to the boy behind the counter, and try not to stare at the weathered fishermen who sit to your left at the table nearest the doorway. You only partially succeed, and it's while you're glancing at them while sipping from your glass, that you see it.

Across the street, an old bearded man in a brown robe is sitting in a chair in the sunlight. He has a walking cane beside him and one leg crossed over the other. He's talking to another man to his right, your left, and this man is standing and also wearing a robe, light blue, and a hat. Between them is a single stack of bright red Coca-Cola crates, about six or seven of them, and they reach the same height as the standing man. Above the man on the chair is a black and white, horizontally-striped awning jutting out from the store front, which reaches down almost to the top of his head. And above this awning are two pink window frames set into the store's whitewashed facade, and, to the left of these, the bright blue wooden balustrades of a balcony. These men, and the colour that surrounds them, form the background, and focal point of the image. And they are framed by the shadowed foreground, which is formed at the top and left corner by the doorway arch of the tea shop you're in, on the left by a pillar just outside that follows the line of the standing man's back, at the bottom by the shop's dark interior, and on the right by the silhouetted profile of the fisherman you've been looking at. His hand is raising his glass to drink from, and there's just enough light coming in from the street to illuminate the liquid inside and make it appear as if he's about to swallow gold.

p.s. look out for a post in the future which will contain more of my photos from Morocco.