Five Go To Fez

Saturday, 29 March 2014

At the end of 2013, my family and I set off to Fez, Morocco. Not only did we set off, but make it there. I know, to most people, setting off goes hand in hand with making it there. But my family has something of a... track record... for travelling via rather roundabout routes. In April 2010, while that Icelandic volcano erupted and wreaked havoc all over Europe, we first attempted to get to Morocco. By train.

Yes, you heard me. By train. And believe it or not, we were rather smug about it too. Most flights from western Europe were within that week or so cancelled because of the ash clouds emitted by Eyjafjallajรถkull. Our journeying from London to Fez by train was surely a cunning, eco-friendly, and foolproof plan! Needless to say we didn't make it.

Fez is Morocco's ancient imperial capital and the large, sprawling medina (the old, walled town) is virtually untouched by modern civilisation. Most of our time was spent wandering the medina's alleyways, browsing the innumerable stalls, and fighting off the irresistible mildly aggressive salesmen's hard-sell: 'I get you good price'.

Fez medina
Winter sun on the roof
On the roof
 
Baboosh stall, Fez medina

Many people see Fez as only a several-day stop on a longer trip around Morocco. There is more than enough to do there to last you a few days, but on on our penultimate day we became slightly restless so made a trip out to the Moroccan countryside. We stopped at the stunning lake Volubilis, next to which were a couple of road-side stalls, selling the obvious combo of squashes and baskets. (Businessmen and -women, take note.)

Road-side stall, Lake Volubilis
Lake Volubilis

Another Fez must-do is visiting one of its many tanneries. On entering, you are handed a sprig of mint to mask the foul, putrid smell (note: it does little to mask the foul, putrid smell), then taken in single file up a very narrow staircase to a viewing-point high above the tannery itself. A friendly Moroccan guide gave us the brief history of the tannery and explained how the process of tanning works. It was slightly alarming seeing the tannery workers wade barefoot through pools of chemicals and dyes (photos here) And no, we didn't make it out without a good old bit of Moroccan hard sell: tour finished, we were swiftly whisked into a backroom to have mountains of overpriced leather bags thrust upon us. Yay!!!!

If you ever get the chance to visit Morocco, stop by Fez! Though often overlooked by Marrakesh, Fez has a hell of a lot to offer and need not be dismissed as its poorer cousin. It's busy, bustling, and in many ways rather medieval: don't expect to be swooping in and out of a supermarket, you'll be eating tagine and tagine only.

I also made a short film about our trip, if moving images are more your thing:

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On Polaroids and Why I Use Them

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Polaroids. Love them or hate them. (Who doesn't love polaroids? Let me rephrase that.) Love them. Either way, you'll be seeing a lot of them round here, so you'd better get used to it.

Theodore, the little brother
      
Myself, as a young 'un
     
My cousin Helena and I

Grandma, mum, brother
Theodore

     
Sporting my best tutu

Polaroids are making a comeback. Though they were hugely popular in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, they were thrust back into the shadows with the arrival of digital photography, and in 2008 Polaroid announced that it was to discontinue all instant film production. I was devastated when they stopped selling film for the sub-shaped Polaroid I-Zone camera (see above): the camera of choice for any self-respecting 90's kid. So, a few years ago, when Fujifilm and The Impossible Project reinstated instant photography, I was over the moon. While The Impossible Project produces new film for traditional (and otherwise obsolete) Polaroid cameras, Fujifilm is introducing more new models by the day, with aim (I hope) to show that instant photography is certainly not a novelty, and far from a dying art. And I say this with the backing of Andy Warhol: the man himself was renowned for his use of instant photography, and known to have jumped on the selfie-train way before the rest of us could even say 'Instagram'.


Sunflowers in Tuscany
Theodore's 16th

I could list all the reasons I live and breathe Polaroid. But I could also bore you for hours. I'll keep it short and sweet. 

'Ten' Things I Love About You:

1.) You capture the magic of a moment, eyes closed, nostrils flaring, warts and all.
2.) You embrace your imperfections as you don't come pre-packaged with airbrush or with a half-dozen filters.
3.) You come ready-framed, for easy display on a wall or front door.
4.) Your considerable size and presence invariably sparks conversation with strangers, gawping at you the way they do a new-born.
5.) You combine a retro charm with 21st century instant gratification.


I'm still slightly unsure as to what this blog will be about. As it stands, I see it developing into an arts and lifestyle kind of thing, but don't hold me to that. What I can promise you is that every photograph - and I mean every single one - will be a polaroid. Here goes!

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