By Maya AlShabab.
We make our way together down the winding streets of the old Medina Fez, a maze of fabric covered walls and colorful copper work; fragrant herbs envelope the senses. Among the hustle and bustle, Omar Chennafi – photographer – yells back a hello or stops for a quick handshake; he seems to know everyone, young and old. Some of his students walk by him discussing photography techniques, while others disperse looking for a shot that inspires them. “I like to photograph my emotions!”, he says with an artsy glimmer in his eyes, (the sort that makes you want to give up your life, get a camera and live in a foreign land taking pictures).
“I am not very fond of still photography, even though I do a lot of that. Due to my environment, I am surrounded by beautiful nature and gorgeous Moroccan architecture, I take many stills, but I find them to be quite static, they don’t move me.” He adds: “what I really love is to try to capture that moment of emotion, in the eyes of an older man, in the movement of his hands, or in the careless posture of a young child in the street.”
Omar Chennafi, is a young Moroccan photographer with some serious professional triumphs under his belt. His love for photography came to him as fate when he was give a camera by a visiting British friend to try out taking some pictures for fun. This incident “woke something up inside me” as he puts it. Next thing he knew, he was hooked! His images have already been chosen by and featured in Time Magazine, and he has been chosen as the official photographer of the internationally prestigious Festival de Fès des Musiques Sacrées du Monde (Festival of Sacred Music) in Fez, Morocco.
What do you photograph, Omar?
“I photograph myself,” he said and took me back by surprise. What does that mean? “When you are choosing frames and shots, you are photographing your subconscious, your emotions. The closer the photograph is to reflecting the complexity of your mind, the better and more touching it is.”
So what emotions does Omar look for? “I had a very special relationship with my grandfather, and I find myself taking photographs of older people, their hands and the expression in their eyes. In a way trying to capture my emotion towards him and trying even to replace that relationship with him through my photography.”
Festival du Music Sacrée du Monde ….
The Photography Club …
“I help but I don’t teach the students. I tailor the classes to correspond to the needs of each particular group, and to revolve to an extent around their interests.” The Photography Club in Fez is an initiative by the American Language Center, that runs weekly with students ranging from professionals looking to advance their technique, to beginners looking for a new hobby.
“I merely help you visualise things and ideas that are hidden in you. The way I see it, my role is not really to guide or teach, but rather to assist and be there to answer questions. The students are the ones who decide what they want to do and where their talents lead them. I never say ‘do this’ or ‘take this sort of angle’, or ‘this type of frame’. Photography is a way of personal expression and should be respected as such.”
What Omar does decide however is the focus of the classes, which often tackle very interesting and one could argue ‘marginalized’ subjects. One such was the role of women, and a close look at the daily details of their lives on a day-to-day basis. The Club also took part of the ‘Slide Luck’ initiative, an international movement based in NYC that looks at connecting people of various backgrounds through art and food. Check out more of the Club’s work on its Facebook page at: Fez Photography Club
To see more of Omar’s work, please visit his universal Facebook page at: Fez Photography Club