14’l‘he list If April - 4 May 198‘)
Photographer Owen Logan tells Alice Bain about the difficulties and discoveries behind his photographs of Morocco.
LIFTING THE VEII.
It has taken five years for OiTL-‘rT‘“‘ Logan to build his vision of Morocco. Or rather. for Morocco to get under his skin and into his photographs. Attracted by the country‘s split personality. its closeness to Europe combined with its oriental nature. its Islamic history and western inﬂuences which divide families and whole cities. Logan arrived in this ‘lsland in the West' as a novice and returned most recently as an honoured guest.
His first visit in 1983 was ‘hell‘. As a young. self-taught Scottish photographer he had high ambitions and little of the kind of‘experience the project demanded. ‘I had the very typical attitude. as a British photographer. that no one minds having their photograph taken. In Morocco. having someone click at you is a real intrusion of privacy. 'l‘here's just not room in the culture for that. At first it‘s difficult to imagine that there could be any problem taking a photograph of a woman who is covered from head to foot anyway. But it is a grave insult to that woman even though you can only see her eyes.‘
Early on. Logan was faced with the pitfalls of preconception every time his shutter moved. ‘I had to shed those preconceptions. lake the veil for an example. For [iuropeans it’s the most easily read symbol for what they consider to be an Islamic oppression of women generally. Now. whatever you think of that. the veil has its tradition and for many women is just like putting on a hat. They might wear the veil one day and not the next. You can’t read anything into a woman’s life because she is wearing one. It‘s all much more subtle than popular mythology would have you believe. Women are very powerful within their families and some Moroccan sociologists argue that the least well-off women are those who have taken on a [European lifestyle. They become isolated. For me. the most interesting thing about the veil is that putting it on actually pinpoints the moment when someone goes from being a private person to being a public woman .'
l’ew images were created during that first sojourn. Not interested in taking photographs unsolicited. or coming up with superficial images which pande red to a westernised image of the place. Logan returned the following year with a revised approach. chosing to live and work in areas where he could become known by the inhabitants. gain their trust and in many cases their friendship.
Slipping into the lifestyle he found train travel an ideal way to socialise. ‘lt's a good way to get friendly. Moroccons are much more convivial travellers than the British.‘ ( )n one trip he captured the rare sight of a young couple embracing. comforting each other after the effects of a car accident. In Morroco it is much more common for public displays of affection to be between men and men or women and women. than it is