Saturday, April 25


Go on, explain this. It's a fact I snapped.
A room with all of its furnishings. 
All of them.
"There was nothing else? No bed, chair, sofa, sink, window... Nothing?"

"Nope, just this."

"Where'd you find it?"

"Don't recall."

"What's its story?

"That's the point. This is its story. All the words in its sentence."

"So? What's it mean?"

"There's everything in that frame.... Every clue."

"Look, I need more. What's this about?"

"Imagine a fluffy white cloud in a blue sky. Then imagine it seems like something."

"Um... alright."

"Now, take away blue. Take away white. Take away fluffy. Take away sky."

"Well,  OK... and?"

"There's no '...and'. Nothing more: Just imagine."

"But... imagine what?"

"We're hard-wired to sense patterns... Meaning. We order order to appear."

"Yeah? So whudda-hell's that room's gotta do with clouds?"

""Ahah! My point! Exactly my point! Very good. Thanks."

Saturday, April 11

Outrospection: The Street King

King Mohammed VI, Rabat. Morocco

“We cannot expect the camera to suck in, with light and shadows, the photographer’s emotions.” - John Updike

“Information is a porridge of opinion, theory, and truth heated by feelings.” - Ted Byrne 

•••• •••• ••••

Familiarity grinds down dimensions all around us so that we don’t notice the normal. Our brains are lazy pieces of meat which exert energy only upon the unusual; person, event, thing, or idea. The rest, the usual, is veiled leaving us heedless to the infrastructure of life.

Travel cracks the shell of expectations. It forces us to notice, not so much the habitual of others, but why our expectations are un-synched with theirs. To the degree that what we expect to surround us… doesn’t… our brain goes, "Yo!"

“Look,” it murmurs, “that trash bin up above's got a huge picture of their king! Why, we’d never do that.” And then… and get ready because here’s the epiphany… then the brain wonders, “Why wouldn’t we proudly paste a colossal image of someone we revere onto a big, dirty, dented, every-day, metal garbage can?” 

There's a word, "introspection". Why is there no word, "outrospection"?

I don't travel to understand others. Comparison seeds curiosity!

Once upon a time, the grammar of photography was limited to nouns. It described in images of fact. Over the past century we’ve learned to use modifiers and with powerful digital tools we can release adjectives and adverbs. 

Photographic travel art turns ordinary into information: so we can judge… in both directions. 

Oh, BTW... One great thing about being King, no one ever asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" 

Although an entire country quietly wondered about his answer to that question. 

PS: King Muhammad VI has been controversial, so it is possible that the statement up there in the image might not be one of patriotic support. But given the laws re. critiquing the Monarch... Well, maybe this is the subtlest way to do that? Regardless, it's an image that prods at outrospective questions... :-)

Morocco VIII: What's A Ksar and Why?

February 13, 2020
As always, click upon any image to enlarge it

Plate 64

The highway toward Marakesh from Ouarzazate winds through craggy southern slopes of the  High Atlas mountains cut deeply by the Ounila river.

Plate 65

A half hour into that Valley the town of Ben Haddous sits across the river from ruins of the Ksar Ait Ben Haddous. Every North African town has a mud and straw kasbah. This one, nestled against the mountain slopes, is among the most impressive. 

Plate 66


Built around one of the steeply abrupt rocky hills that dot these vallies, Ben-Haddous's surrounded by an array of farms, mountains, and rivers. It’s believed that the town, as opposed to the Ksar, was established in 757 and that its founder, Ben-Haddous, still lies buried in his tomb behind this  decaying walled city. The site was also one of the many trading posts on the commercial route linking ancient Sudan to Marrakesh by the Dra Valley and the Tizi-n'Telouet Pass.


Plate 67


The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddous is an ighrem (fortified village) along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. The word ‘Ksar’ refers to a large group of close-together kasbas (homes) and barns behind defensive city walls which are reinforced by corner angle towers and pierced by two baffle gates.


Plate 68


Unlike the town, but like Ouarzazate’s seraglio (See Morocco VI), the oldest ksar constructions do not appear to be earlier than the 17th century. However their structure and technique were propagated from a very early period in the valleys of southern Morocco. The site was also one of the many trading posts on the commercial route linking ancient Sudan to Marrakesh by the Dra Valley and the Tizi-n'Telouet 

Plate 69

Ksar Ait Ben Haddous is around 1,300 square meters. Made of red clay bricks, it has many long and narrow alleys tangling up in a unique geometric shape. Some structures are modest, others resemble small urban castles with their high angle towers and upper sections decorated with motifs in clay brick - but there are also community areas which include a mosque, a public square, grain threshing areas outside the ramparts, a fortification and a loft at the top of the village, a caravanserai, two cemeteries (Muslim and Jewish) and the Sanctuary of the Saint Sidi Ali.

Plate 70


Plate 71

The earthen buildings are very vulnerable due to lack of maintenance and regular repair resulting from the abandonment of the ksar by its inhabitants.


Plate 72


Plate 73

About 98 families lived in the Ksar until the 1940s. Nowadays, only five still live. there, most moved to modern structures in the bustling town across the river. The large houses in the lower part of the ksar however, with well conserved decorative motifs, are regularly maintained. Workers return daily however to shops that serve the entire area’s lively-hood: tourism and the movie makers from Oouarzazate.

Plate 74


Plate 76


The architectural style has adapted to the climatic conditions all in harmony with natural and social environment configurations.  The inclination during restoration to introduce cement has so far been unsuccessful. Only a few lintels and reinforced concrete have escaped vigilance, but they have been hidden by earthen rendering.

Plate 77
Note the graffiti on the front of this shop. This was a set for the movie Gladiato


Plate 78

Scholars conclude that Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddous represents the Berber culture of southern Morocco, which itself has become vulnerable as a result of irreversible socio-economic and cultural changes.

Plate 79


Plate 80
Up next - Morocco IX: Marakesh 

Saturday, April 4

Morocco VII: Seraglio of Ouarzazate

February 13, 2020
As always: click upon any image to expand it.

We bussed south from Erfoud out of the High Atlas Mountains through hairpin, windy passages toward The Door of the Dessert, the city of Ouarzazate.

Plate 54

Mid and Southwest along the spine of Morocco it’s sandy. Ouarzazate is nestled at the crossroads of the subsistence Draa, Dades and Ziz valleys. . 

Plate 55
The small Ouarzazate city’s bordered by tangerine dunes to its west and south. Caravans knew the town as either the gateway to the desert or it’s end. It was where traders debarked or finished their 52 day Timbuktu trek. 

Which made its 18th century Berber rulers important and rich.

With the great desert defining its southern border, the scenery’s nourished Africa’s two greatest movie studios where films like, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Living Daylights (1987), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Kundun (1997), Legionnaire (1998), Hanna (2011), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011) were shot, along with part of the TV series Game of Thrones.

Plate 56
Perhaps imaginary art professor Zdan Tabaamrant might lecture profoundly over the depth
of this expensive Byrne image of the legendary Kasbah of Taourirt. Or then again, maybe not.
It’s also home of the massive Kasbah of Taourirt built by the Berber Sultan Glaoui in the late 1700s at the height of the caravan trade. Now its ruins are under UNESCO supervised restoration and we toured its seraglio: the sequestered living quarters of the Sultan’s wives, concubines, and some of their youngest children. Those harems lived in seraglios guarded by Janissaries and giant eunuchs who paced its bleak halls. 

Plate 57

Bleak? Imagine 30 or so women, many just girls, living entire lives among mysterious stairwells and strangely shaped rooms lit by low windows: desert hot in summer and then winter chilled. 

Plate 58
For entertainment they peered down  through filigreed bars upon bustling courtyards of people they’d never know. Here they slept: thin rugs on cement floors. 
Plate 59
Lives lived within garnet, azur, and white walls sometimes decorated with meticulously painted strips at their tops just below finely worked cedar ceilings. These women were designed, decorated, and restrained by barred windows and the Sultan’s cravings. 

As unnamed poets wrote,

In a harem
all women’s hearts
by lust and slavery
are torn apart

…and they,
put on,
took off, 
pants, briefs 
and veils,
as ‘wants man’…
Plate 60
What were their secrets? Their hopes? Dreams? Seraglio was where women lived like pigeons. Most arrived as children themselves, frequently pre-teens, into a scented purgatory: to choose between satisfying Sultan, torture, or death.

Plate 61
Okay, monochrome bleaches away life’s romantic overlay distilling feelings down to the dismal. In fact, our guide pointed out the lavish ceilings and exquisite details along the walls’ upper edgings. 

Plate 62
So here’re a couple of Technicolor cells. Take their palettes back now and imagine them spilled upon the earlier sad images up above. Imagine golden and bejeweled furnishings upholstered in silken fabrics. Imagine musicians, food-mounded plates and indulging servants. Conjure everything except liberty to take a walk, meet kin, read, write, speak your mind but only to be, “as wants man”.  
Plate 63

BTW, the last word above is not men, but ‘man’. 

Coming quite soon… Morocco VIII: Ruins of the Ksar of Ait Ben-Haddous