French-Moroccan artist Leila Alaoui has always been fascinated by the rich ethnic and cultural diversity of her native country. Inspired by the aesthetic and approach of Robert Frank’s The Americans and Richard Avedon’s In the American West, she started traveling through Morocco with her portable portrait studio, documenting the people she met along the way. Her ongoing project, “The Moroccans,” is a celebration of her countrymen and heritage.
Alaoui’s project is complicated by the fact that Moroccans are particularly apprehensive about being photographed. “Most Moroccans grow up hearing stories of witchcraft and are often afraid of the ‘evil eye.’ It is commonly believed that one can throw a spell at someone by using his or her photograph,” Alaoui said via email. “Moroccans are also tired of being photographed by Westerners as ‘exotic’ subjects and have grown to react aggressively towards anyone who wants to photograph them without permission.”
All images © Leila Alaoui