Tucked away among the sprawling sand dunes of the Sahara Desert in Morocco, the Berber people lead a nomadic lifestyle. Families live together simply, meeting basic needs, in modest structures just outside the small village of Merzouga.
The village is just on the edge of Erg Chebbi, a stretch of sand dunes that reach up to 350 m high, and are in a state of contest, almost unobservable movement under the direction of desert winds. I was on my way to a desert camp (pictured below), where I would be met by local guides, and a small camel caravan, to take us further into the desert. There we would be witness to a most spectacular sunset.
My fellow travelers and I had agreed to put our cameras down as the sun was setting, to just take in the light, and the sand, and the vast space all around us. We breathed in the foreign atmosphere, the sandy warmth, and the tension in the air that signaled the approaching storm. We didn’t last too long, before our cameras were back in our hands; we couldn’t miss the chance to capture the beauty around us.
It was on our way into the desert that we visited a small family homestead, and connected briefly with the local Tuareg people, the Berbers native to the area. It was an unexpected opportunity. It was quiet and humbling, as we asked permission to photograph the family.
A friend told me this week to keep writing about my travels, because she lives vicariously through my photos, and the narrative I write. Unable to travel, due to a challenging family situation, she feels like she is along with me on my adventures, as she visits this blog.
On this excursion, I felt I really had something worth sharing with her, and let the photos quietly tell their own story, of a family living a life so differently than anything I’d been this close to before.
My outlook, what I am able to capture in my photos, is shaped by my academic, professional and personal history. In a sense, what I see depends on what I have already seen, and today I travel, for work and for pleasure, so that I have experiences worthy of being written about.
When I was majoring in journalism at Marquette University, in the early 1990s, I don’t know that I had all that much to write about. I certainly hadn’t lived enough life to have found my real voice. While my high school experiences, with the written word and with visual arts, had prepared me for collegiate life, it had also given me a bit of a distorted view of what lay ahead.
You see, I had this career fantasy of being an independent feature writer at established and respected magazines (National Geographic and Rolling Stone come to mind), commissioned to select, research, write, photograph, and edit stories of my own choosing. Of course this would require travel. But, back then, what did I really have to write about?
I took my first college-level journalism course, picked up a few assignments for the Marquette Tribune, and found myself trudging down to the Milwaukee court house to observe and write about what was going on there. I was not impressed with the experience, full of crime, politics, political crime & criminal politicians! A lot of things I didn’t much understand. This was not the career I’d imagined, not what I’d signed up for.
My love of journalism, and now photojournalism, is strong. In a way I feel I’m back to where I started, with a lot more experience behind me, and a lot more to say. In graduate school I studied Philosophy of Psychology, and convinced the department to allow me to earn a graduate minor in Nueroscience. I learned to examine, if not understand, how people think; I literally wanted to know what made people tick. My portrait career gave me the photography skills I desired, and people skills I didn’t know that I was lacking. What it really came down to was wanting to tell people’s stories through images.
Now, I’m blessed (and sometimes cursed) with a life that demands that I travel. I’ve adapted, and flourished. This career, training photographers and trainers across more than a few stated, opened up a Wanderlust that I think was lurking there for a long time. And now I seem to find a way to travel, collecting stories of the experiences along the way.
Creativity and curiosity can exist in our daily lives; I hope my friend will cultivate the already apparent Wanderlust in her own life, first through reading this blog, then by exploring her own city’s unique and surprising people, variety of amazing food, access to visual and performance arts, and natural beauty.
Come along on the next Adventure!
Photo Credit: Photo that opens this blog, of me photographing a small Berber boy, was taken by my traveling companion April Toxey, in 2014.
Merzouga – http://wikitravel.org/en/Merzouga
The Tuareg – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuareg_people