Based between Paris and the Moroccan city of Meknès, photographer Ilyes Griyeb is intrigued by the everyday detail of working people’s lives, especially those existing in the liminal zone between age-old traditions and modernisation. Last year he captured the salt harvesters of Sengal’s Retba Lake – a body of water made bright pink because of its high Dunaliella salina content – and won us over by making this much-famed landmark unrecognisable through his focus on the quotidian slog of work.
Ilyes’ latest project, based in his native Morocco, captures fruit farmers in the rural town of Ait Ouallal. Like the workers of Retba Lake, their everyday life only marginally intersects with the country’s rapid modernisation and is pretty tough physically and financially. “Contemporary Morocco is a land of such strong contrasts that fathers and sons sometimes no longer have enough common words and references to be able to understand each other,” Ilyes tells It’s Nice That. “Today, young people feel entangled in their roots and seek to get rid of them.”
Featuring posed portraits of the workers as well as shots of them at work, Ilyes’ series aims to capture the texture of a life unfamiliar to many young, Westernised Moroccans. He’s intrigued by details: how work uniforms are cobbled together from uncorrelated outfits, how plastic bags make impromptu lunch boxes and the materiality of tools. There’s a strong sense of melancholy to his work, of limbo and waiting.
“The series is a story about the other generation of Moroccan people, the disconnected one, the left behinds, still working in the fields,” Ilyes says. “They’re a generation that didn’t lose itself in the Western dream. For several reasons, they accepted their reality, the reality of the hard work and slow evolution. Some of them never thought about it, others tried and failed.”
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