After a five year gap of time, Simon Chetrit, Man Repeller’s roving street photographer, returned to Morocco. Ever on the hunt for style that tells a personal story, Simon, who is of Moroccan descent and grew up visiting family in Marrakech, Casablanca and Arfoud, packed his camera and roamed the streets of Marrakech.
“It was an incredibly enriching experience to return,” he says of his trip back. He cited an inspiring mix of hyper-modern and traditional clothing, color — so many bright colors (a shock to his senses given all the New-York-City black to which he’s accustomed), and the convening of cultures from all over the world. But Simon’s not one to simply tell. Through the lens of street style, he shows.
Click through the slideshow for photos of the people (and their outfits) Simon encountered. And below, a bit more about Simon, the man behind the camera.
What’s your relationship with Morocco?
I feel incredibly blessed to have a distinct identity as a Moroccan Jew. Moroccan Jews have, for the most part, always been welcomed by the broader Moroccan society. I spent a lot of summers in Morocco with my family as a kid, and returned there often for weddings, bar mitzvahs, religious events… I’ve gone dozens of times over my life and have always drawn inspiration from it. The culture, the history, the art, the food…it could take lifetimes to fully explore.
Morocco has opened my eyes to color, to completely different shapes in clothing (like djellabas and kaftans), incredible jeweled headdresses from the Berbers…the list goes on. It also opened my eyes to the importance of diversity and representation within the subject matter of my photos (statistically speaking, Arabs and Central/South Asian people are the least represented people overall in the fashion industry and in modeling). The more time that I spend there, and the more that I read and learn about Morocco, the many cultures and civilizations which have been there, and the history, the more I am inspired and enriched.
These photos are all from Marrakech. Any trends you noticed within the city?
One of the coolest things about Morocco is that every city has its own unique color motif — Marrakech’s is green and red like the flag; Essaouira is blue and white like the beach; Chefchaouen is all one particular shade of blue, and all the residents of that city dress accordingly. You see a lot of red and green combos in Marrakech, and it’s pretty cool to see coming from black-head-to-toe, ever-so-cool NYC.
If you could describe the energy and style of Marrakech in a word, what would it be?
Regardless of city, what’s it like to take a photo of someone who’s used to posing for the camera versus someone who isn’t?
For people who are used to being photographed, it’s no big deal; they go on with their day afterwards like it never happened.
For those people who are very rarely photographed or even ordinarily excluded from fashion, it can be a big deal. People have written me “thank you” emails; they’ve been overwhelmingly grateful that I even bothered to notice them and their outfit enough to take their picture, as happened a few times in Morocco. You forget the power that taking a picture of someone can have. You really can make someone’s entire day.
What makes you stop someone to take their photo?
It’s hard to say but, when you know, you know. After a few years of having to evaluate literally hundreds of outfits in a few moments to pick out which ones to photograph, when an outfit works, it just hits you — almost any street style photographer can see this. Me, personally, I notice the silhouette first, especially if it’s one I’m not used to seeing or one that’s totally different, then the material, color, etc. I notice anything that might belong to another culture, another time period…
I give massive bonus points for originality, even if I hate the outfit. It’s hard to be specific, but when you see it, you just know.
How has taking street style photos impacted your eye for style?
It has made me much much better at taking shots of people walking, ha. Seriously though, before, I would almost never have models move or walk or spin or anything in shoots — it was very dour and serious all the time. It has definitely given me a huge appreciation for the beauty of movement, and what someone’s outfit says about who they are, their background, what they love and feel close to.
What are some things you’ve learned about people from taking photos of them?
No matter where you go in the world, no matter the cultural background, the language, the country, whatever — people are fundamentally the same, and when you have a camera in hand, must be approached with trepidation, charm and respect. Most people can understand that you want to take their picture because you like their style in just a few quick gestures, and often I don’t even need to exchange any words at all. Style is something truly universal.
Photos by Simon Chetrit.