Shot over six years, Ilyes Griyeb’s new book reveals an alternative look into everyday life in rural Morocco

Titled Morocco, the project documents an unpretentious and authentic depiction of life in Ilyes’ family’s hometown, Meknès.

30 October 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

For the past six years, French-Moroccan photographer Ilyes Griyeb has been working on a project very close to his heart. Swooping between striking portraits, candid interiors and thrilling landscape shots, the extensive series offers a unique portrayal of Morocco, the country of his origins. Back in 2013, the photographer, then in his early 30s, travelled to his family’s rural roots, a northern city known for its imperial past. What would unfold over the next few years is a photography series overlapping genres of documentary, street photography, not to mention a deep exploration into a significant place that’s informed his family’s history for generations.

This is the subject of Ilyes’ new book Morocco, released just yesterday, on 29 October 2020. What started out as a few creative experiments is now a record of how rural life in Morocco is rapidly changing. “I have approached these images with as much naivety as possible,” he tells It’s Nice That of the work, “with as much dissatisfaction as possible. I think during these six years, I have been a bridge between two diametrically opposed generations,” he continues, and by internally searching this unique space in between generations (old and young) and cultures (western and eastern) the project has allowed Ilyes to gain some objective distance.

In the bid to tell his family’s story through images of Morocco, Ilyes wanted to depict a different side to the country, far from the fetishised orientalist cliche that is so often associated with it. Based between Paris and Meknès, Ilyes has built his career thus far on a portfolio that finely straddles the line between fashion, fine art and documentary. Consistently intimate, Morocco shines a light on several issues facing Meknès’ residents, subtly revealed through photography.


Ilyes Griyeb: Morocco (Copyright © Ilyes Griyeb, 2020)

In one image, Ilyes captures his cousin Khalid in his bedroom, an image that has come to symbolise “the idleness of a large part of Moroccan youth,” the photographer explains. It’s a topic that evokes “all the frustrations that many young Moroccans are experiencing today and have been experiencing for decades,” he says. Elsewhere, another image shows a man whose face we cannot see. He is holding pipes in one hand and a turkey in another. Other images depict the joy of a hot summer’s day as friends splash in a pool. Many of the photographs are bathed in a warm golden glow or the cool of a blue-skied evening, and it is these atmospheric qualities which set Ilyes’ work apart from his peers’.

He remembers his first trips to Meknès as a youngster, the long summer vacations spent in a house his father built in the Ezzehwa district of the city, a house built before the photographer’s father relocated to France to work on farms. In a photo encapsulating his family history, Ilyes documents a drawing of rural Morocco which “touches me deep in my heart and brings me back to the history of my family.” It stirs recollections of the ochre lands “that were ploughed by my father and grandfather together,” Ilyes continues. “A poor and humble peasant story that touches me enormously in its strength and courage.”

Multiple stories weave in and out of this expressive new publication, and with this in mind, Ilyes hopes this book explores the country’s multiplicity which is often overlooked by the west. Drawing in the viewer, Morocco hints to myriad narratives affecting generations of Meknès’ residents today, the daily routines of the city’s agricultural workers and the palpable feelings surrounding his unemployed cousin, for example.

GalleryIlyes Griyeb: Morocco (Copyright © Ilyes Griyeb, 2020)

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Ilyes Griyeb: Morocco (Copyright © Ilyes Griyeb, 2020)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

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