You are a self-taught photographer; how did you get into this medium? I have read that also your mom used to be a photographer; did she transmit to you her passion?
I began photography 4 years ago, shortly before completing my university studies. My interest was likely sparked by my mother’s background as a photographer. Initially, I took pictures of my immediate surroundings from the terrace of my home. As time passed, I became more dedicated to the craft and used available resources to improve and expand my skills.
In an interview with NATAAL you said, “Photography is a family affair to me”. How is your family a source of inspiration in your pictures?
In the beginning finding models and arranging shoots with them would be tricky. Time, organisation and getting them to the shoot are things that can be quite long and expensive. I would always have my brother and sister readily available so that’s how I navigated around the problem of models. It’s not a thing where I exclusively use my brother or sister either. It’s one of those things where we’re able to share this comfort and beautiful energy between each other. That’s why we’ve continued to all work with each other. They’re not just models. We work on ideas together, we support each other and different concepts always get thrown back and forth.
You’ve set up a studio on your family home’s rooftop and named it Studio Sa3ada (The Happiness Studio). How did this concept of a rooftop studio come to life? Do you enjoy a higher perspective on the city beneath you?
In the beginning we were just playing with this idea, like shooting in our rooftop because we don’t material to shoot in other places and my little brother othmane start sharing it on instagram and named the rooftop studio sa3ada, by time people start interact with it and they like the idea, after we said we will named studio sa3ada.
What is your creative process? How do you achieve the incredibly poetic and textural finish in your pictures?
My creative process begins with brainstorming ideas, gathering props from flea markets, and setting up the stage for the photo shoot. I direct my models, who happen to be my siblings, to capture the final image. The process is often dependent on their school schedules. I use a Samsung Galaxy S5 phone to take all my pictures, which offers accessibility and affordability for young photographers like myself. The basic settings and low cost have allowed me to experiment with minimalist and abstract photography.
You’re proud of your roots and your heritage. Still, looking at your photographs, I can tell you’re distancing yourself from the stereotypical North African aesthetic while always respecting your culture. How much Morocco inspires your work?
I’m a person that does a lot of research into my art and photography. Photography in Morocco exhibits, or can be portrayed as exhibiting, Orientalist views. I try to show our culture and our identity in a way that isn’t so “traditional”. There are recurring details and clothing in my photos typical to that of my heritage – the djellaba, niqab and hijab. The photos are taken in our land too, but it doesn’t have to necessarily look like Morocco, or have art and patterns that people probably associate with Morocco. Above all, I look to include the components of what make me who I am, which is why my family are a big part of my photos.
The pink and red hues and textiles that tint your photographs seem to highlight the hidden identity of your subjects, exuding a sense of intimacy and privacy. Why are you concealing your subjects’ faces?
Some people are very good at getting a certain emotion out of people when photographing them. I’ve discovered that I can create the same effect without showing someone’s face. The image itself is the emotion.
Ismail Zaidy will be presented by MAÂT Gallery at 1-54 Marrakech 2023!