Interview with Yoriyas

Also known as Yassine Alaoui Ismail, Yoriyas is a Casablanca-based photographer and performer.

Attempting to capture the fleeting moments, Yoriyas’ spontaneous photographs reveal beautiful instants of the daily life around him. In his new exhibition, opening in parallel to 1-54 Marrakech on the 24 February 2017, Yoriyas presents his series Casablanca not the Movie at Riad Yima.

In conversation with 1-54, Yoriyas tells us more about his practice and inspirations.
IG: @yoriyas

How did you start working with photography and what attracts you to documentary photography especially?

Y: I never thought I would become a photographer, I studied Mathematics and I liked to play chess, but during my teenage years I became passionate for hip-hop, which changed me completely. I became a break-dancer and this allowed me to travel the world for competitions and shows. At this time, I was taking pictures during my travels to remember my way to my hotel and for memories, but then after a serious knee injury in 2013 I had to stop dancing and I began to take photography more seriously. Photography became my new way of expressing myself and thanks to the hip-hop street culture it was very natural for me to start as a street photographer. After that, I feel like my work started to take a more documentary direction, maybe it’s just because I love taking my time to realise projects!

Yoriyas, Hay Hassani, Street Market, Casablanca 2016 © Yoriyas

Your works portray the everyday life of the people and culture around you, how can your works provide a commentary on current social and political situations?

Y: I’m a very spontaneous photographer. I always walk around the streets with my camera, without a plan or idea, but I’m ready to shoot at any moment, until I see something that attracts me, like body language, forms, humour, contrast or sometimes I just go with my feelings. I also observe the social status of the people I photograph and the environment around me, but I always try to be neutral when shooting photographs and I prefer letting others interpret my pictures. I think people can give different meanings to my images, depending on their experience and background.

Nowadays, with social media apps like Instagram we are constantly bombarded with images, street photography and fleeting moments of daily life. Do you think that these new technologies have influenced us in the way we look at photography? And has it affected the way you work or choose your subjects?

Y: Yeah, nowadays we consume thousands of pictures everyday, but through social media it’s very difficult to find good quality of work. Smartphones have made photography open to everybody, but I think of this type of photography as fast food: you can get it anywhere and it’s accessible for everyone; but if you want something special and unique, you need to search for it from master chefs to local and familial places, and this taste sticks to your memory and can even sends you somewhere in time: that exactly what great pictures can do. However, I feel that Instagram helped me to share my work with a very large audience and for this it’s great tool for all photographers.

Often in your images you highlight the contrast between North African culture and the Western world, what makes this exchange of cultures interesting to you?

Y: I guess my interest was born out of two things. Firstly, travelling for many years to more than 25 countries and going in and out of my country helped me to develop a special way of seeing contrast and fusion between cultures. Secondly, my wife is German so I live this intercultural exchange in my daily life; she influenced me to see things in a different way and being attentive to small details.

Yoriyas, Hay moualy Rachid, Casablanca 2016 © Yoriyas

Can you tell us more about what’s behind the concept of ‘Casablanca Not The Movie’? Do you think this series of photographs will have a different response among Moroccan and European audiences?

Y: Every time I go out of Morocco, I always hear the same question: “Where are you from?” I say, “Casablanca” and the first thing people then say is “Casablanca, like the movie!”. I always find myself explaining that the movie has little to do with the real Casablanca, and the film was actually shot in a Hollywood studio, thousands of miles from it. When I got injured, I started taking pictures of the streets of Casablanca to fill in the time of my dance practice. These pictures have become a project about the city that inspired me the most, so I wanted to send a love letter to this city and ‘correct’ the visual record for all of those who want to see a truthful representation of Casablanca and Morocco.
I believe, this series is not only for European and American audiences, but also for Moroccan people, because it highlights the moments where these cultures meet, which we wouldn’t notice if not in a photograph.

This exhibition will be presented at Riad Yima, Hassan Hajjaj’s iconic creative hub. You and Hassan have very different styles, but your works are both a representation of the people around you. In what ways do you think your work differs and share common traits with Hassan’s?

Y: Yes, our photographic styles and approaches are very different. For example, Hassan knows the people he shoots, while I don’t know my subjects and he takes his photographs in a very carefully designed set, but I have to walk for hours before finding something to shoot, without being able to control the background and atmosphere. However, we do share many commons traits too, we use a similar colour palette, which I call the colours of Morocco, we both use natural light and both our works tend to make people smile and look for the small details. I am very close to Hassan, who is like my big brother and who inspired me a lot, so I’m very glad that, after touring many cities around the world, the first time I’m exhibiting Casablanca not the Movie in Morrocco it will be at his riad.

Yoriyas, Boulevard Mohamed V, Casablanca 2017 © Yoriyas

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