Ilyes Griyeb photographs Morocco to regain control of its narrative
His new book documents a six-year journey to tell the story of a 'divided and contradictory' country.
This series by French-Moroccan photographer Ilyes Griyeb is, remarkably, his first ever photo project. “It started very naturally in 2013,” he says. “I documented the life of my family in Morocco, that of my cousins, my aunts, my friends.” Back in 2016, we presented a handful of these images and spoke to Ilyes about the narrative behind them; namely how many young men in Morocco dream of immigrating to France. The focus of his work has remained Meknès, his family’s rural hometown, and now, four years later, the story has grown into his first book.
Born in France to Moroccan parents who immigrated in the 80s, Ilyes has spent his life between these two countries, “In a very conservative and religious farming family,” he says. This project considers a “divided and contradictory society”, placing different perspectives of Morocco next to one another in order to better understand the country as a whole.
“I make the link between two opposed worlds that complement each other, with a point of view from the inside,” he says. “It is the desire to fill a space. A physical space first of all, but also a narrative one. I wanted to tell the story of Morocco as I see it, as I understand it. A desire to regain control over the narrative of our history, when it has been -- in my opinion -- too abandoned to foreign writings.”
It’s a project that has required patience. “Morocco is a country that is very careful about its image and photographers are not very well regarded by the police. I have already been arrested and questioned several times by the secret services,” Ilyes says. But one that he felt compelled to tell in the face of inaccurate portrayal of the country. “Morocco has been exoticised in recent years,” Ilyes says, through fashion and advertising. “These are two circles that care very little about the social reality of the territory they consume. In my work, I try to re-establish a certain truth as best I can.”
The process of shooting this story over six years has taught him many life lessons. “I learned about myself and the mechanisms that govern Moroccan society. As the son of a Moroccan immigrant who has returned to his country of origin, I feel a dual understanding of it -- a ‘double consciousness’ as W. E. B. Du Bois would say.”
“I dedicate this book to my cousin Khalid,” he finishes. “He accompanied me during six years of work. He is in my eyes the symbol of a generation, he carries within him all the truth of this book. A truth that I try to touch.”
All images courtesy Ilyes Griyeb