Interview Tarek Zaigouche - Maghreb photographer of the year 2018

How long have you been taking photos? How did you come to use this medium to express yourself ?

Even though I have always been fascinated by the power of immortalizing moments of life, photography has recently become an integral part of my daily life. 6 years ago, I bought my first camera to take better travel photographs. At that moment, I had absolutely no other goal than to come back with beautiful vacation photos! I started capturing the places and landscapes I visited. This helped me learn and master camera settings as well as understand the principles of what makes an image « beautiful ».

About 4 years ago, I discovered portraiture. I wanted to practice it during my travels. Very quickly, I felt the urgency to photograph people in more real moments, without making them pose, without disturbing the scene.
Without really being able to explain it and without realizing it, after a year of practice, I became totally addicted !

Once comfortable with the technique, I began to question what I wanted to photograph. This simple question: « What is the most important subject to me ? », led me towards reflections, a deeper introspection. What sets me apart from another photographer ? What is my story ? What do I have to say ? Who am I ?

I was 10 years old when my family and I left our country of origin, Algeria, to live in France. These two nations are very different in several aspects, such as language, tradition, culture, history, religion, food, architecture, etc.

Despite all this, my family and I managed to rebuild our lives and France became our other country. I personally see it as a great opportunity to be able to understand both sides. I am not 50% Algerian 50% French nor 100%/0%; I feel completely 100% French and 100% Algerian. I actually feel lucky to have gained this open-mindedness. I believe this is what pushes me to be curious and open to others.

I now photograph the street almost every day with the intention of telling stories that resonate with me whether they are on the other side of the world or just around the corner.

Where do you find your inspiration in general ? Who are the artists who inspire you ?

I find my inspiration in the banality of everyday life, that is to say in fact in the infinity of photographic opportunities. I think I'm constantly searching for the emotion I get when I have a good photo that's completely unexpected. A moment of no importance but which, imaged at a precise moment and from a certain camera angle, can take on another dimension.
Triggering photography for me is like affirming who I am each time through images that I have decided to capture.

Many photographers inspire me of course. Their images make me evaluate mine with great humility. They show me the way and challenge me to progress day after day.
I admire the work of Garry Winogrand. His dedication to this art is the mindset I seek to put myself into.
I love Alex Webb for his ability to capture the essence of a complex scene and tell compelling stories. His book « The Suffering of Light » is one of my favorites.
David Alan Harvey is fantastic, his images of Cuba made me go there 2 years ago.
Harry Gruyaert's photographs taught me how to use color.
Sebastiao Salgado's documentary war photography had a big impact on me.
I'm also a big fan of the humor that Matt Stuart manages to convey in his street photographs. More recently, I attended a workshop in London with Vineet Vohra. His vision is exceptional. His work in India is some of the best I know. He stressed to me the importance of letting the image come to me instead of chasing it; that is to say, to become aware of what touches me and to always be ready to grasp it.

Tell us about the circumstances in which you decided to start your series « The Streets of Morocco » ?

I didn't really choose to start this series on Morocco, it seemed to impose itself on me. At home we would say “el mektoub” :).
In fact, of course, being Algerian by birth and currently living in France, I aspire to discover Muslim countries in search of this tradition or rather what makes a tradition. The important component for me is to understand how tradition is expressed and evolves on a daily basis, in the reality of real people, without folklore. And on the street, everything is true.
It was after several photographic trips to Morocco over the last 3 years that certain images resonated with themselves. They bear witness to what personally marked me in this country: a strong attachment to tradition and culture with at the same time a vigorous desire for modernity. These two forces, which very often seem to oppose each other in predominantly Muslim countries, coexist in Morocco, or even add up to give a positive and radiant dynamic !

What are your upcoming projects ?

I will continue to enjoy photographing for myself above all ! This first series on Morocco made me realize the importance of continuing to deepen this idea and visiting other countries in the Maghreb and beyond.

What do you think of the Maghreb Photography Awards competition ?

I think that this competition contributes to highlighting the Maghreb on a cultural level. It shows the rest of the world that there is a clear desire to be known internationally and to become an unmissable event !
It is also a superb opportunity to discover new talents, whether from North Africa or even elsewhere, since it is also open to foreign artists who have photographed our beautiful countries. What I personally really liked was seeing that the projection on the Giant Screen was open to all residents of Essaouira. It was magnificent and touching to see the amazed eyes of the people who came with their families to discover the photos of the winners! Congratulations to the whole team for the organization and thank you very much for this prize which means a lot to me !