If you want to see an alternative side of Morocco, Baptiste de Ville d’Avray’s photography is the cinematic antidote to cliché images of opulent riads and sprawling desert dunes.
Instead of Marrakesh—which we’ve all watched become the trendiest destination in North Africa—De Ville d’Avray chose to capture the lesser-known city of Oujda, which is close to Algeria, on the north-eastern side of Morocco.
Documenting the city’s sprawling urban landscapes, De Ville d’Avray managed to catch the beauty in the stillness of everyday life in Oujda. When he began shooting his first series in 2009 (which is now part of a bigger project entitled So Far Away, Yet So Close), Oujda still felt untouched by modern civilization.
Over a decade and thousands of photos later, de Ville d’Avray’s work has methodically and sensitively recorded subtle moments that frame people in transitional places. Oujda was once one of the busiest border crossings with Algeria, but in 1995 the border closed, which intensely weakened the local economy.
Tourism has started to develop closer to the Mediterranean coast, and de Ville d’Avray has made it his artistic mission to immortalise the quiet moments (and people) that have often been overlooked.
But his snapshots go beyond the realm of traditional documentary. They are raw, laden with sincere emotion and ooze a sense of dreamy realism. As he notes, “The landscapes become characters in their own right. People there are like silent actors seeming to play in the set I chose for them and that creates a kind of imaginary land”.
De Ville d’Avray’s photography is contemplative and intimate, providing much-needed attention for a once forgotten stunning region. Thinking of visiting Morocco? This should be your go-to off-the-beaten-path destination.