“Getting lost is how I understand traveling,” said our featured film-loving traveler for this week’s Wanderlust installment, and we find this to be an amazing way to make a surprising adventure. Many of us are weary of not having fixed travel plans or going against an itinerary, but Miguel Jimenez, a wedding photographer based in Seville, Spain, gives us an example of what can happen when travelers make way for spur of the moment exploits.
In fact, Miguel said he wanted to get lost in Marrakesh, one of the major cities of the North African nation of Morocco, and thought it would be the perfect trip. After browsing through his impressive travel photos (taken using his trusty Yashica Mat 124G and a borrowed Canon AE-1 equipped with a 50mm f1.8 lens) and learning about some details of his meanderings around the exotic and formal imperial city — such as roaming aimlessly along its walled, maze-like quarter and spending some time with the Berber people in the desert — we couldn’t resist asking him to share his story with us!
Read through our insightful chat with Miguel below to learn more about his trip!
Please tell us something about yourself and what you do.
I’m a photographer based in Seville (South of Spain). I love shooting different cameras, so I usually bring any of my film cameras to my trips. I have a passion for documentary photography, and I also run a cultural magazine (www.maasaimagazine.com) where we interview artists and designers from my city and some other places in my country. Running this magazine has allowed me to meet and shoot a lot of creative people during the last year, so even if I don’t consider myself a portrait photographer, I’ve enjoyed it a lot. The idea for this magazine has its roots in projects like Industry of One, but using a different approach.
I’ve just dipped my toes into architecture photography and really looking forward to shoot more. And yes, I do shoot weddings, that’s how I started my paid photography career.
Can you share with us a brief background about your trip? When did you visit Marrakesh and what made you decide to go there? How long did you stay?
I went to Marrakesh about one year ago. I was planning a trip with another friend (who also happened to be a photographer) to celebrate his recently awarded architecture degree. Our first idea was to go to the Southeast coast of Spain but then I remembered that I hadn’t been to Marrakesh yet and I really wanted to get lost in Morocco, so it looked like the perfect trip.
We stayed there for a week, but we ended planning another trip to the desert in Erg Chebbi, so we just stayed in the city for three nights.
You mentioned a couple of interesting ideas for the trip: renting a car to go into the desert and getting lost in the narrow streets of the city’s medina. Did you actually get to do those two, or something else that’s also interesting nonetheless?
I’m a good fan of road trips. Having the total control of where and when to go is amazing, but roads in Morocco are not so good. You can find a lot of people walking or riding their bikes on narrow roads, which adds a bit of risk to the your road trip. It was our first time in the country, so we thought that joining another tourists on a trip to the desert wouldn’t be that bad. We would leave the road trip for the next time. Roads aren’t that bad actually, but the idea of having a broken pipe in the middle of the mountains didn’t look so good. I encourage people who visit Morocco to rent a car or hire a fisher, it will make their trip a totally different experience.
Getting lost is how I understand travelling. The concept behind “le flâneur” (the stroller) is the motto of a huge part of my personal work (and part of my paid work too). So, every time I travel I just go out and walk, cycle, or take a random bus. And I enjoy the walk. Marrakesh seemed like the perfect city to walk around and get lost: its medina quarter (a distinct walled section found in North African cities) is full of narrow streets, has a busy souq (or souk, an open-air commercial quarter), and you could find hundreds of interesting spots just around the corner.
Tell us about that night you spent in the desert with the Berbers. Anything in particular made the experience interesting or memorable for you?
We traveled to the tents by camel and arrived at dusk, and the colors of the desert were just amazing. Then, we had a typical Berber dinner and they also played Berber music. We even made a campfire. I definitely wouldn’t mind staying there for a few more days. I wish I had spent more time at the desert with the Berbers.
You told us that you saw a lot of similarities between Morocco and where you live in Southern Spain. Which of these did you find most surprising or amazing?
The food, and also the music. Flamenco music is very related to traditional Arab music. There’s also the architecture: my city is quite old and you can find a lot of good examples of houses with an Arab twist.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your trip?
There’s a big square in Marrakech called Jemaa el-Fna. It’s just the craziest square ever: during the day it’s full shops, storytellers, snake charmers and so on, but it’s always changing. You can sit in one of the different bars with terraces over the square and just see how it changes. It’s full of life and local people go there to buy goods.
Can you give an important piece of travel advice for film photographers like yourself?
First of all, don’t spend all the time behind the camera. The best way to discover a place or enjoy any given destination is by using your bare eyes.
Sometimes, people in places like Marrakesh don’t allow you to take pictures of them, which is totally understandable. So, if you happen to travel with a little instant camera in your bag, it’s going to help you a lot. People are way more friendly when they receive little gifts like a Polaroid photo. Also, plan how much film will you spend on your trip and always bring more. For sunny countries like Morocco, Kodak Portra 160 or Ektar are always a good choice. Always ask for hand inspection of your film while at the airports. I’ve read that the new x-rays scanners don’t damage film anymore, but better be safe than sorry.
Lastly, if you could take just one camera and one roll of film to a dream destination, where would it be, which camera and film would you bring, and what will you make sure to take photos of?
I’d go on a road trip along the Pan-American Highway from South to North. I’d bring my Mamiya RZ with me, so I can shoot some Portra. If I can bring an instant camera along, I’d also bring a Polaroid Land Camera 195 so I can shoot with some Fuji FP-100c and FP-3000b. That’s what I did on my last trip to Tunisia and it was totally worth it. On the Pan-American road trip, I’d make sure to take photos of gas stations along the way and its owners.
Interview by Joy Celine Asto / Photography by Miguel Jimenez
To see the rest of Miguel’s photos from the trip, please head to his blog posts: