When you’re a kid, stories of your mates’ exotic holidays to anywhere further than Bognor warrant considerable fuel for the imagination. For Paris-based photographer Fred Lahache, his best mate Hamza’s visits to Morocco would inspire hours of conversation between the two 12-year-olds, with Fred captivated by the very different experience of his closest pal. “I remember the stories he would tell me after each summer in Morocco with his family – the time of year we could not be together for a while,” says Fred. His latest project Looking for Hamza is an ode to the power of these stories and Morocco as an imagined destination – a visual diary of a holiday together that the pair never had.
“The action in the streets, the shops and the people reminded me of the atmosphere I remember from Hamza’s narratives,” Fred tells It’s Nice That. “I also witnessed the ‘Berber way’, which is often about DIY versions of things like counterfeit fashion, or a very chilled way to react.” Most of the images from the series were scenes Fred stumbled across, with the photographers only staging a few of the portraits and still lifes. “The combination of both [natural and posed images] builds this story where I imagined we were still 12-years-old, with certain things catching our eyes, hopefully encouraging sensory and playful participation from the viewer too.” Tiny details like the glittery ring of a taxi driver or the polka-dot pattern of shadows on dry earth are the driving force of the series – moments of child-like wonder in a place so aesthetically different from home.
Given Fred and Hamza were such good pals, Fred was keen to communicate “the idea of the pair, the inseparable duo” in the series. “I think you will spot some of them easily, and these really frame what was ultimately at stake for me," he says. Given his trepidation at capturing the Morocco imparted to him through Hamza’s stories, Fred didn’t tell his friend about the project until he’d completed it. “I didn’t want to be influenced before doing my edit, and I was happy to make it a surprise,” he says. “We spoke on the phone for an hour recently when he saw the series, and he said he was touched. One crazy thing is that he recognised the man dressed in green, from working a for few months in a tiny city in the Atlas!”