Ali Berrada | Interview

At only twenty-six, Moroccan photographer Ali Berrada has been snapping for over ten years. It all started when he received his first camera from his father. Rather than shooting portraits of his family or friends, he began exploring the settings, and capturing landscapes. Years later, following a life changing trip to Japan and successful shows in Casablanca, Lille and Istanbul, Berrada is today one of the rising talents on the bourgeoning Moroccan art scene. And yet he does not consider himself a professional photographer. “I have never really understood this status,” he says. “Above all, photography is an art; you don't have to be in a category.” 
Berrada tells me more about his photographic journey and shares his observations about the evolution of art in his country. 

Photographer Ali Berrada Lost in your dreams series
Portrait of the artist

Let’s start with your stay in Japan five years ago. How did it impact you and your practice? 
I was lucky enough to live in Japan for seven months. I knew that this was a once in a lifetime experience, so I bought my first real camera there and started to take thousands of images.  
It was one of the best experiences of my life - not only did it give me the opportunity to improve my skills in photography, it also had a great impact on my personal development. 
Right after this trip, I had my first exhibition in Casablanca [Look Back exhibition at L’Appart 19 with fellow artist Amine Benboubker in December 2010].

What is your main source of inspiration today?
Life in general.  It is beautiful to see how our way of thinking can evolve with every passing day. I might be inspired by a quote, a song, a book today and be motivated by something else the day after. My biggest motivation is the joy I feel when I'm exploring a place, an idea, with my camera, feeling that time is freezing in a magical moment.

Photographer Ali Berrada Lost in your dreams series
Lost in our discussions
from the Lost in your dreams series

Tell me about the ‘Lost in Your Dreams’ series. How did the idea come to you and how have you explored it? 
The idea started with the photo ‘Full moon party’. I wanted to conceptualize my dreams and using the moon as a ball for a football game was one of them. The most important thing was to not use Photoshop for these photos, just to say that through our imagination, we can reach our dreams or at least get closer to them.

Photographer Ali Berrada Lost in your dreams series
Full moon party
from the Lost in your dreams series

Since King Mohammed VI, an art enthusiast, began his reign in 1999, Morocco has been growing culturally, and saw the emergence of art hubs such as Casablanca and Marrakesh. What changes have you experienced in your country as an artist during this past decade? 
It is true that art in Morocco started to be more important for the past decade, but we are still far from other countries, such as Egypt. If painting has an undisputed place in the art scene, music, cinema and photography are still struggling to get the notoriety they deserve. 
This is slowly but surely changing, with the future museum of photography in Marrakech, which I am sure will make a difference. Just this year, more than five photographers of the prestigious Magnum agency exhibited in Marrakech.

Photographer Ali Berrada Lost in your dreams series
We are a legion
from the Lost in your dreams series

You have exhibited in Morocco, France and Turkey. How do you compare the art scenes in these three countries? And what was the response to your work there?
It’s really different from a country to another. Photography in Morocco is kind of new; people are just discovering this form of art. For a photographer, it’s interesting to exhibit here, as it has a double purpose – observing how people react to the media in general and how they respond to my photos.  It’s completely different in France - the most famous photographers are from there, which makes it much harder to stand out.  But hopefully, all doors are not closed.  I was amazed by the art scene in Turkey; it’s buzzing out there. I had so much fun! 

What is your next show/project? 
I am currently working on two different series and one video project.  I don’t know if they will be showcased one day or not.  The most important thing for me is to enjoy the process and not expect anything from this. 

Photo credits
Images courtesy of Ali Berrada

To see more of Ali Berrada's photography, visit his website here
For news about upcoming shows and projects, see Berrada's Facebook page here.