Think Casablanca, and you think black-and-white Humphrey Bogart, Rick’s Café, and breathy declarations of love. But 31-year-old photographer and b-boy, Yoriyas (Yassine Alaoui Ismaili), is trying to change all of that. His project ‘Casablanca not the movie’ is a photographic project which aims to give us a different view of the city, from the streets.
Forget the romantic film – shot in a Hollywood studio – and think of a modern bustling city where Africa, Europe and the Middle East meet in a tantalising, diverse, contradictory mix.
Born and raised in the 04 district – ‘one of the most creative yet dangerous areas in the city’ – Yassine started off his career as a professional dancer. ‘The influence of hip hop and living life in our neighbourhood changed me completely,’ he says.
‘With the streets as our dance floor, my friends and I created Lhiba Kingzoo.’ In only a few years, that dance crew would be touring and winning competitions all over Africa and the world.
It was while travelling that he discovered his talent for photography. He has an eye for the original, those ordinary moments which are somehow out of the ordinary. His gift for clever composition perhaps comes from his love of chess, which he has played since he was five years old.
Massine explains that the rapid urbanisation creates these moments of contrast that he loves to capture. ‘The city, it’s growing so fast that we call it now “small Morocco” because you can find all Morocco there – from the south to the north.’
The photo above was taken at the African market of Casablanca and, for Yassine, it shows ‘the multi-culture, fusion and contrast in this same time.’ The photograph shows ‘the integration of the immigrant inside the city and also we can stop for a while in this picture and imagine many stories.’
Culture and religion exist side by side. The photograph below came to pass during the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan. While praying with his mother and aunt, he was impressed by the amount of people and wanted to take a photo at the right perspective. He saw a vantage point from a building and decided to climb up, but a woman who saw him go in started screaming that he was thief. He improvised: ‘No no, I’m a friend of Saïd. Luckily, she replied: “Oh, Saïd, the neighbour.”
It was lucky timing, Yassine explains. ‘As soon as the adhan resounded, everybody stood up to pray, I could see the carpets’ colours and the clothes the men and women were wearing, with so many colours.’
Outside a new theatre in Casablanca, ‘an extra-ordinary moment’ as a tractor appeared behind a poster. He took five pictures and created a snapshot of the culture and change that make the largest city in the Maghreb so mesmerising.
Forget Paris, we’ll always have Casablanca.
You can see more of Yassine’s photography here.
And on Twitter @Yoriyas