Joshua J Sneade’s work captures the changing times for Morocco’s nomadic tribes

The influence of modernisation is being felt in some of the most remote communities in the world. Joshua’s book Nomads documents the nomadic tribes of the High Atlas mountains as they face increasing pressure to abandon their traditional way of life.

16 December 2019
Reading Time
3 minute read

The number of people living a nomadic lifestyle in the High Atlas mountains in Central Morocco are in decline. As younger generations look ever-more towards the cities to pursue work and education, their traditional way of living is under threat. It’s a lifestyle that became of interest to Joshua J Sneade, a photographer from the West Midlands who recently captured the plight of these dwindling tribes in his self-published book, Nomads.

Joshua has always had an interest “in the different ways people live across the world,” he tells It’s Nice That. “When I was younger I used to read a book which my mum had called ‘Africa Adorned’, documenting the various tribal groups throughout the whole of Africa. I have been fascinated ever since.” When it comes to photography, however, Joshua’s experience is predominantly within fashion, working with brands such as Dr Martens and Urban Outfitters.

Yet, “As my photography shifted more towards being fashion orientated I realised that I missed creating documentary work,” Joshua explains on his shift of subject. “I wanted to push my limits and do something out of my comfort zone and shoot something exciting. This series came about through me wanting to learn – both about a different way of life firsthand and also to test and improve my photographic skills in a documentary setting.”

GalleryJoshua J Sneade: Nomads

Joshua, who is now based in Bristol, spent two weeks alongside various tribes in Morocco when working on the project. “I was fortunate enough to find a photographer who lives in Morocco and who has done some documentary work with the nomads before,” he recalls. “He acted as my guide and driver, making the trip far easier than it would’ve been by myself.”

This local expertise allowed Joshua to gain very close access, as well as the trust of the tribes – something that is clearly evident in the photographs. He managed to capture all aspects of their lives, from tender family moments to work-filled days in the beautiful mountain landscape. “I went into it not really knowing what to expect, and what I found was some genuinely lovely people who live pretty arduous lives,” he explains. “The towns can offer education for the children which can lead to a better life, so it’s a hard choice for parents between the traditional way of life and what is better for your children.”

Some of the most striking images in the book are Joshua’s portraits of elderly nomads during calm and reflective moments in camp. The dedication of these older individuals to remain in the mountains was something he found particularly interesting. “The towns offer more security and probably a less physically arduous way of life, especially for the old people,” the photographer points out, “despite this they were proud of their way of life.”

On returning to the UK, Joshua decided to combine the production of the book with learning new skills in the darkroom, something that lengthened the process of self-publishing significantly. “It meant that I ended up working on getting the images ready for about six months because I was having to find a few blocks of days to travel to London to print the work, and could only go once a month or so,” he tells us.

Despite the strenuous nature of the project, it has already inspired him to think about similar work in the future, albeit slightly closer to home this time. “I am toying with a couple of ideas for projects in Bristol,” he says “I definitely want to continue to make documentary series alongside fashion work though!”

GalleryJoshua J Sneade: Nomads

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About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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