“There are things that feel special and sometimes can’t just be said” says 37-year-old French photographer Fred Lahache. For him, the special thing was his connection with his childhood friend, Hamza.
“Our families were very different but we grew up building a common ground,” he explained. “We’d spend hours at each other’s places after school. Summer was the only time of year when we would be apart”.
For the self-taught photographer, their time apart became a life-long mystery—one that he’s finally tackled with his latest series “Looking for Hamza”.
Growing up, Hamza told Lahache stories of his family trips to Morocco, stories that he found intriguing, but like most childhood stories, most became practically irrelevant as years went by.
It wasn’t until last May when the photographer decided to take a trip to the North African country that his friend’s stories began creeping back into his memory. “It simply started with a real impression of feeling him around during my trip,” he says. “Then, I thought about how I should use my camera to share it, and I guess it was important to find something that would be transversal to two eras; our childhood together, and our relationship now”.
In the series’ early stages, Lahache was fixated on producing a single image: “I became obsessed with finding a “Hamza” graffiti on a wall, a rock, or something,” he says. “I was neverable to find one anywhere, and it drove me crazy since I thought it would be a piece of cake”. And after failing to get his taxi driver to stop when he did come across one, the series took a different turn.
Prior to that point, the photographer had started to liken the title “Looking for Hamza” to the series, but now the name carried a different meaning. “I was now literally looking for him everywhere,” he says.
What transpired are morsels of Morocco, captured through Lahache’s lens. Despite having been inspired by memories of Hamza—they’re anything but nostalgic. “That wasn’t the point at all” he clarified. “I recalled some real stories from him at the time, but this whole journal is pure interpretation from me, with my own sensibility today”.
Traveling through the busy streets of Casablanca, the red city of Marrakech, through the soft sands of the Agafay desert, Imlil, and the Ourika Valley, Lahache took it upon himself to paint his very own picture of Morocco, whilst remaining true to the one that Hamza painted for him throughout the years.
Having kept the series a surprise to his friend, he worried about what would happen when he finally took a look. “These were my images, my interpretation of something I evoked from his own life. I hoped I would not distort things too much or hurt his feelings” he says.
But what came of it was a larger surprise that shocked them both—an “extraordinary serendipity” as he described it. Hamza recognized a man from Lahache’s portraits.