words & images ann gaul
As a photographer, student of gender theory, and one-time resident of Morocco’s Souss Valley, I’ve made a hobby in recent years of collecting postcards that feature images of women. Contemplating the Maison de la Photographie and its trove of Protectorate-era photographs that predated, mirrored, and undoubtedly inspired their contemporary (and ubiquitous) counterparts, impressed upon me how thoroughly the modern tourist’s experience of Morocco is shaped, conditioned, and colored by a particular sort of photographed image.
A glance at any collection of postcards practically anywhere in the country offers at least a handful of different images of women stacked alongside photos of camels, archways in old medinas, and piles of spices. Women and girls are a fixture of the Moroccan visual landscape produced for touristic consumption; whenever I return to Morocco I find new examples. My last trip, in March 2013, yielded five new unique images to add to the nearly forty I have collected since 2007. This is in stark contrast to the postcards on offer elsewhere in the Arab world: scouring the tourist shops of Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Egypt, I’ve found nothing that compares to the range of images of women one finds in Morocco.