Portraits of Marrakech musicians playing on the Djemaa el Fna (main square) of Marrakech. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Portraits from a place: Portraits of Marrakech musicians

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These portraits of Marrakech musicians on the Djemaa el Fna (main square) are part of the reason Marrakech is so popular with photographers from all over the world. .

Many photographers visiting amazing Marrakech, head straight to one of the balcony restaurants looking over the square for that classic postcard photo. The savvy street photographer, however, knows that it’s been don a million times before. And down on the ground you don’t need to head straight for the snake charmers, you just start looking at the faces on the square like these portraits of Marrakech musicians.

I’ve always enjoyed environmental portraits – the art of photographing someone in their place of work. It’s always been something I’ve been drawn to in my photographic career and you can check out my work at Terence Carter Photography with plenty of these style portraits on display.

As soon as I saw these particular musicians (pictured above), I knew I wanted to take their portraits. But being a musician myself, I wanted to watch them play and get a sense of them and their expressions.

Well, OK, I did get a little more involved than that. I grew up playing stringed instruments and I hold the dubious distinction of being the only child in my family not to play in an orchestra! As soon as punk turned up I bought a Telecaster electric guitar and gave up music theory…

Despite my classical music deficiencies, I joined in playing the Amzhad, a single stringed instrument of the Berbers. I figured that if could play violin, a one-stringed instrument with a bow should be easy. It wasn’t, but I managed to make some kind of a bond with the guys, as usually tourists just take their photo and move on.

I quickly popped off a few frames after I handed back the Amzhad. The guy on the right looks strong, but it’s the sense of melancholy and a sadness that I get from the musician on the left that stays with me to this day.

Was he missing home? His wife? His children? Did he not enjoy playing for people who did not understand his music and the music of the Berbers?

Whenever I see his portrait, I still ponder the same questions.


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Terence Carter is an editorial food and travel photographer and infrequent travel writer with a love of photographing people, places and plates of food. After living in the Middle East for a dozen years, he settled in South-East Asia a dozen years ago with his wife, travel and food writer and sometime magazine editor Lara Dunston.

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