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Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Exodus: Jewish Morocco

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Jews first arrived to the land now known as Morocco over 2000 years ago.  Protected under the Islamic Principle of Tolerance since the 7th century, they flourished, holding high positions in trade and government.  The Star of David was a symbol shared by all Moroccans, appearing on currency and even the national flag. During the Holocaust, when asked for a list of Jews, King Mohammed V declared, “We have no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccan citizens.”  Jews and Muslims were united by culture and kingdom.

Following World War II, Zionists recruiters targeted Moroccan Jews to populate the new State of Israel. Israel’s expansion marked the beginning of a Moroccan Jewish exodus. 300,000 Jews inhabited Morocco as of 1940; it was the largest Jewish population in the Arab World. Today, less than 4000 remain.

What remains today is a Jewish past nearly abandoned, fragments of Morocco’s Jewish culture that have been left under the protection of Muslim guardians devoting their lives to a history that isn’t even their own, yet entirely is. The majority of the remaining community now lives in Casablanca, where they choose to identify with their French past rather than their Arab heritage. Across the country amidst breathtaking landscapes lay the tombs of holy Jewish saints, abandoned relics and sacred spaces.  Within these spaces are pilgrims seeking to identify with what remains of this ancient and holy history.
This work represents a journey into the remnants of this cultural exodus and aims to reveal a history of co-existence that has been lost in the wake of Zionism.



Aaron Vincent Elkaim was born in 1981 in Winnipeg, Canada. He is currently a freelance photographer based in Toronto. Aaron has a degree in Cultural Anthropology and a diploma in Photojournalism, and focuses his work on exploring cultural issues in the modern world. His work has been acknowledged internationally, garnering awards and recognition at the New York Photo Festival, American Photography 26, PX3 2010, PDN Photo Annual, the News Photographers Association of Canada and the Ontario Arts Council. He is an Eddie Adams Alumni and was recognized as an Emerging Photographer in 2008 by Photolife Magazine.

Aaron began this project in 2009 while on a trip with his father to the place where he was raised. He and most of his family left Morocco in the 1960’s at the peak of the Jewish Exodus. As Aaron learned more about the history of Jewish Morocco, he realized how unique their history and co-existence was and felt it was something he needed to explore further.


Related links

Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Boreal Collective

120 thoughts on “aaron vincent elkaim – exodus: jewish morocco”

  1. This is such an amazing essay, congratulations Aaron!

    It is rich in variations, it is beautifully sequenced, has a great rhythm, and I just love the symmetry of the edit … which probably is a bit difficult to get in a slideshow. But just look at the begining and ending sequence and how beautifully it opens and closes this essay.

    I am really happy to see this. I jumped off a train in Essaouira once, a long time ago, when I was doing Interrail. The colors of that place blew me! Bright orange wooded ships being build against a blue sky and the white silhouette of the town. I still remember. They let us live in a small room on the roof of a hotel there because there were no hotel rooms available in the whole of Essaouira … :) And there were little flakes of ashes always in the air, carried away by the constant wind … from the open fires. It was dreamlike.
    Sorry… it is seldome that an essay makes me go back to places like yours does.

    I was certainly not aware of the Jewish Exodus in Morocco … If we only always could be enlighted in such a way …

    I really hope to see your essay again, many more times, in many different media.
    Thank you.

  2. AARON,

    Congratulations for your publication here… You must be happy about David’s comment just above….

    I do agree with the point that this is a very realized essay…. The text that supports the photographs for once is actually really helpful and sheds an important light on the issue and the context… It is clear that you have worked this essay in depth….. with deep understanding of this exodus, the history of the Jews in Marocco, the cultural heritage… the essay is really well constructed, closer more intimate shots combined with other more distant shots that set the background and environment perfectly…. without a doubt your essay could support an in-depth article in Natgeo if they had a special on Jews in Marocco….

    Now, while this essay is without a doiubt very good, still… I am missing something to fall over in love with it and be able to say that it is among my favourites that have been shown here…. hard for me to pinpoint why exactly… maybe it is too well constructed, a bit predictable…. maybe I am missing just couple of additional singles that would stop me down my track and say shit… this photograph is amazing!!!.. my preferred shots are 5,9,18,20,24,29,33,36,45 (quite a few as you can tell…) with 36 and 45 maybe being the best for me but still…. not quite falling in love just yet with any…. Maybe this essay is thorough, well constructed but did not touch my heart as much as others…. Maybe you need to let you heart go loose a bit on few shots…. forget the story and make couple of extra killer shots!!!!

    Anyway…. I may not make much sense here and may be just being difficult today…. First and foremost my sincere congrats as no matter what I say, it is an excellent piece of work and many of us would love to have made such a “realized” essay….

    Best of luck!


  3. “We have no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccan citizens.”


    Love the photography you show.. had no idea about the Moroccan exodus, thank you for your work!

  4. All my respect and admiration to Aaron and this work…you make me think, think, think…
    and i realized once again how little clue i have about history…
    now i need to research more and more ….
    thank you!

  5. ERIC…

    well put..and i also see what you mean…very well realized, but are you saying in essence could use either a bit of heart or just a killer picture or two to put it over the top??…just to play devils advocate however, perhaps this quieter approach is just a bit more subtle …takes some time to savor…it may not jump out at you, but it might just steep in its own juices….i think Aaron is simply a quiet photographer…a minimalist voice…yet very well spoken..

    cheers, david

  6. Aaron, where to begin? This is very inspiring work. So many questions, I’ll have to get in touch with you soon.
    Jewish migrations are so vast and multicultural, spanning thousands of years across continents. Sometimes, like in much of eastern Europe only ghosts and pain remain. Seems like Morocco’s community disappeared (relocated) for different reasons, yet the images conjure similar sounds and smells as pre-war Europe Jewish life. You’re really touching on collective memory with your beautiful quiet approach. Without these sites that were, there would be no present Jewish identity, or it would be so very different. When there aren’t living souls to represent a culture we’re just left with these artifacts, these placeholders for memory bult into the fabric of the surrounding community. Although the Holocaust played a part in this exodus, it is refreshing to see a nostalgic story of a community that faded slowly rather than being smothered by violence. Too often does Jewish identity focus on suffering instead of on its rich cultural roots. Thank you!

  7. “I have been a stranger in a strange land.” –book of exodus

    “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” –book of daniel

    “he wanted to cry out both to the boy and to the peole in the car tht salvation lay not in faithfulness to forms but in liberation from them.”-Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

    What does it mean to carve out an identity, to carve out an identify both defined by a collective memory and imagination, one write long over land and chisel out of books; what does it mean to carve out an indentity which seemingly diverges that that most spoken of by others; what does it mean to carve out of the land a home that seemingly believes the place of identity; how does one conjur an identity if not through the negotiation of memory and its insection of land, the junction between past-down stories and past-over stories; how does one carve out an identity if not in the quite questioning of prayer….

    it will not be much of a surprise that my heart swelled the first moment i saw this essay, and cannot remain impartial because I know Aaron personally and have spent time with him over wine talking about this work and what it conveys and suggests and means. But a short preamble.

    Aaron is one of the kindest, most thoughtful, most intelligent folks I know. We met this summer when I was introduced to him by another great young photographers I’ve been helping mentor. Aaron asked, quite humbly and without fanefare, if I would be interested in seeing ‘my project on Morocco.’ 3 Weeks ago, we met in a quiet bar in Toronto, talked a bit about life and family, the carrying of things, the photoworld, the sky in Manitoba, the scar of the lines of Nova Scotia, and the he opened up his laptop. After a run through of what was then an earlier (and shorter) edit, I was silenced and stunned. Aaron, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think my jaw dropped and I burst out laughing: laughing because the greatest awe and beauty inspires laughter in me, ’cause I don’t know what else or how else to react. I ran through that early edit 2 or 3 times and then i asked to see more pictures (at that time the ‘b’s)…more beauty….more beauty…i told him, immediately, ‘aaron, i’m going to give you a homework assignment for tonight’ ….later after drinking more, i just burst out and told him this work needed to be at BURN and he needed to see, to feel how beautiful and thoughtful and special the work was….we went through more images and, well….Aaron, see, I told you some of those ‘B’s were keepers ;)))……I am so happy and proud and pleased to see this work published here and not only because the essay is thoughtful and quiet and resourceful and generous but because Aaron is the exact kind of person that, even when I’m wearied by the crow-crowd of photographic compeition, reminds me why photography and talking about photography, sharing stories, is so important….He is a very young man, but with a wise and old soul….I could not be more proud of him and I am so happy to see such a wonderful essay here at BURN…Here is why:

    To begin with, what startled me at fist, in that bar, was that I hadn’t seen, or couldn’t remember seeing, an essay before on the MOroccan Jewish community. I’ve seen every kind of story on the Diaspora when couldn’t for the life of me recall another story on the Moroccan diaspora. That itself, the subject matter, was enough to get me all tingly. Then the power and strength of so much of the photographs themselves, and the beauty of his use of light: the red flare, a fleeting psalm, in the 2nd picture arising from the desert, the crescent of light on the rabi’s face in the 3rd image, the hooded specter of death against the wall, the towering voice of light that descends into the absent head of the rabi in #7, the voice of god commanding, in the absence of a mouth in prayer, the shadows beckoning the dead behind the child in 27, aaron’s reflection in a window-sea of blow in 38, the extraroridnary 43, where the rabbi’s reflection is the rebirth and emmergence of a long-gone father/grandfather in exodus of the afterlife, the light entering the man’s breath and back in prayer at the end, hunched over both a prayer book and a ‘grave’…

    and then there is the magnificent metaphoric power of nearly every image….hebrew life is about questioning, but in silence and in fervor, about question the wisdom of words that came from silence, carved about by a mute orator, life is about that testament of the struggle of silence (of god, of the answers, of the commandments) of the word of man and prayer and wisdom…those questions are forever asked and argued and struggled over and believed in and doubted, but, there for it is: in the beginning was not the word, but the question and this essay is filled with nothing but questions, sometimes obvious and fervent and sometimes heartbreaking an unanswerable…and I loved that this essay is not about ‘suffering’, suffering per se…although make no mistake about it, it is there, death looms large here but not death as the human suggestion of forced gravity but death as a living and communicating and story-telling presence…

    without death we would have no stories…

    without stories we would have no memories

    without memories we would have no life…

    and ultimately that is what is so remarkable about this story…that it is about life…about the living…the living not shrouded by clothed by the memory of death, of exodus and of keeping vigilant those questions…the empty school rooms, the prayer vigils, the silence the playing, the eating…while it is obvious that the Holocaust is a part of this story, it is too facile and too superficial to define this work by that for this story is about exodus in a larger sense and about community…about how memory gets passed down and often even passed over….that what sustains communities are not so much sorrow but the will to sustain, the will to carve out identity from the dessert…to carve out identiy from stories….even the picture of the oven speaks to me less of the ovens associated with Shoah but about a much older story….

    and that story is from the book of daniel…

    Daniel 3:8-30

    which tells the story of the three Hebrew men thrown into the furnace by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar for refusing to worskhop his golden idol…

    you see, for me, all to often all stories about the Jewish community get wrapped up in both the contemporary and the immediate…too easy, though understandably, the Shoah gets evoked as a means to lend gravitas to a project…and how could it not, of course…

    but how does one begin to tell a story that is both part of the Shoah and reflective of something that survived and predated….

    a child chasing a soccer ball in front of a mosque…

    curtains blowing in the wind…

    the serpintine road….the candles of a child in a graveyard…

    the classroom…the hotel confidante….the washing of clothes…the bird suspended on a thread of of hope…

    a man folded over a tablet as both nourishment and respite, aspiration and exhaustion…

    this is a story about how people surive on the need to survive, not from horror and loss but from the one ineradicable faith that each of us, all people, seem to have…

    the faith to lean upon the stories that we were born of and hand down, for though they answer none of the questions, they do create, from all the soil and bone, something substantial…

    call that:

    A Mitzvah….

    the act of kindness,

    the commandment that is for the living

    for even the death need the breathing of the living in order to survive….

    a beautiful story photographed with power, intelligence and assurance…

    So very proud of you Aaron…


  8. Oh, shit, i FORGOT to addL

    1) Aaron/David: The edit you guys did with this sequence is gorgeous! :))))…so very very happy and thing this edit is absolutely fabulous! :))

    2) I wanted to pointed out that what makes this, also, for me so special is both its humility AND that it is intimate…this begin as a journey for Aaron to visit his dad’s birthplace…he didn’t go there as a photo assignment…even though this essay looks and feels like a professional visit, it is much much more personal…and i believe that this is what makes all the best kind of photogrpahic work succeed…whether it is more traditional documentary work (just as Aaron’s) or conceptual stuff (like lassal’s), that is it is still a personal vision of the world…a vision invested by a personal relationship to the world and to place…that is why, david’s Rio/Brazil stuff succeeds, ’cause Rio is really Harvey (trust me on this one) this story is very much like the Aaron i know….and that makes for excellence…


  9. Well, I don’t really know where to begin. Bob, thank you so much for your support, thoughts, and kind words… they truly mean so much. David thank you for your words and for creating this wonderful place to showcase work, you have done so much for the community. I am honoured to have my work published on Burn.

    WOW! so many amazing comments, I never could have imagined. Thanks you all so much for your kind words.

    Finally I have to thank Don Weber for his support, he saw the buds of this work after my first visit to Morocco last year and was the one who urged me to go back and continue shooting it. Thank you so much for all the support you have given and continue to give me.


  10. Lassal
    January 5, 2011 at 3:06 pm
    hmmm … I for my part am totally in love … and that actually does not happen often.

    smiling…same here, same here!;)

  11. Aaron: I don’t know if my congratulations carry any extra weight because we are both ‘Pegged-born, but this is a very impressive essay. I find the anthropologist’s viewpoint in photo-documentaries to always be a bonus, and sometimes I am puzzled as to which creates the point of departure that makes these essays so strong. The mixtures of techniques, colour versus monochrome, close-ups and distant shots, interiors and landscapes gives it a full-blown, enjoyable read.

    A couple of small quibbles, which might only be worthy of complaint as an internet essay, but not necessarily as a book: there seems to be too many “guardian” shots, and I would have liked to have discovered more about the sainted rabbis, and less about the ceremony/celebration surrounding the pilgrimage to their tombs. (I don’t know if other viewers are as picky about the writing/titles to the imagery, but it seems only reasonable that if an emerging photographer is worthy enough for placement here at Burn, that the editors should give a helping hand in the written area as well.)

    My ultimate fascination with this work is not so much with the inceptive idea – that of visiting your father’s homeland – but the issue of the Jewish exodus to a new country for all, leaving cities and villages, thereby diminishing within the life and blood of the Jewish culture. It would be really interesting to see if you could repeat this effort elsewhere in the world, where this unique phenomena has occurred. Judging from your start here, it could well become an opus.

  12. What can I say? I love it. I simply love it.

    My only complaint is… I want to hold it in my hands as a large format, masterfully designed superbly printed book and to spend half a night, just lying in bed, looking at the pictures while reading words set in beautiful typography.

    I have been thinking that the need for paper books is going and that the whole future of photography is electronic and that is the only place I want to go.

    This electronic presentation changes my mind. It convinces me of the ongoing need for paper.

  13. DAVID,

    Just want to clarify that I very much like this essay by Aaron to start with and I was indeed thinking about what it may need to go over the top for ME personally…. and I wrote my comment in the context of your perspective that it is among the top 5 most realized essays shown here on Burn…. so I had to be difficult :):)….

    I did do what you just recommended…I did let it soak, looked at it again and I do get the subtle quieter approach… By all means, this essay overall did impact my mood and I also did get the nostalgic feeling that transpires from it….so most certainly it is an essay to savor… yet, I still come back to my point that few of the individual photographs as “singles” did transport me… with some exceptions obviously…. This morning when I woke up, I asked myself, OK, which photographs do I really remember??? Actually there were not so many…. I remembered the opening one, I remembered nb 3, possibly 36 and 45…. I looked at it again this morning and there are pictures that I had clearly missed… Bob is right number 43 is also a great photograph… I continue to like nb 20… It is hard for me to articulate but in some of these photographs, I felt there is just this something extra missing that would have made me connect even more, touch me more deeply… so subjective obviously…. By all means, when I said that the essay in my view might be missing few killer shots, I did not mean few “in your face dramatic shots”…. but maybe an expression in the face, a close look in the eyes, something that would have touched me more deeply… for the sake of the discussion, I will take the pictures that Bob has highlighted…2nd picture arising from the desert: I like the light and it is a good photograph to set the context but does not do much for me….3rd image, again is one I liked very much but somehow, I am left on the side in this picture even, failing to connect with many whose eyes I cannot see…. Number 7: OK, like it but really really does not make me fall over…. child in 27: nice shot again, but same…. Number 38: great setting, great light, could have been great but just missing something for me.. cannot see the eyes…the man is the center of the window in the left could have been “it” but too far to connect really….43 is great….

    Again, I am just “playing” a bit here with what is an excellent piece of work by Aaron so I do not want to be negative but this is how I felt…. Final couple of points in my humble opinion…. I wonder if Aaron could have done a slightly tighter edit… there are some pictures that even looking again this morning I felt may not add much and bring the essay down a bit (like 12, 13, 14…)… I also wonder if Aaron in the future could have a more deliberate aesthetic fingerprint or pov… call it authorship or whatever, but as you look at some images, while strong, well constructed, subtle etc, might be just a little bit “academic”…. I know most will shoot me here as you all seem to love this essay but I think the very best photographers have that something extra in their photographs thst sets them apart, make you recognize their pov….

    Anyway, I will leave it at this for now… Again Aaron, well done and while I am being picky here I am sure that the overwhelming positive respoinse you have got from all others so far tells me that I am just being French and difficult :):):)…. I very much look forward to continue to see how you develop and your future work!!!!



  14. Ahh another essay that relies on captions in order for the audience to comprehend what it is about. Without the captions this is a well executed series of images and if one spends enough time viewing a narrative of choice can be formed or just enjoy the photographs as photographs. The photographers intent ends up playing little to no role.

    Maybe photographers like John Gladdy are right the images should be capable of standing on their own. If an essay of photographs is relying on captions there may be some inability on the photographers’ part to successfully communicate visually. This puts into question whether “the essay” format as seen on internet sites being the appropriate tool of communication for a photographer. Multi media artist/communicators etc use multiple medians photographs, audio,video, illustration, text etc as parts of the whole package. Here on burn we have photographers who are supplementing photographs with text in order to describe images and a artist’s statement to explain their intent.

    Without reading the captions I struggle to see the Jewish intent, no 2 helps but that is in hindsight as I have now read the statement, and captions etc. No 16 could help because I know where the symbols are derived from. So where do the photographs as the sole means of communication leave the illiterate? Lost? ………….

  15. IMANTS:

    how is that possible?…how is it possible that you don’t know that there is a story here about Jews after looking at image 3 (a rabbi) and image 7 (a rabbi leading prayer)…and then there is a lot of hebrew inscribed in stone…NOT all the image have literal references of course, and the title tells us Exodus: jewish morocco…i haven’t yet looked at the captions…in fact, i’ll go one better…when Aaron first showed me this images 3 weeks ago in a bar, all he said was ‘this is my Morocco project’…nothing about jews (i expected to see ‘predictable’ imagery of a muslim country, screw me), his dad…ALL HE GAVE ME WERE THE PHOTOGRAPHS..that’s it…not story, not artist statement, not conversation about his dad or the once large jewish community….it was all there for me….

    i really am surprised that a artist yourself who relies on the language of visual signs would write that….

    the LAST thing Aaron does is supplement with an artist statement…this work doesn’t need captions imho and actually i don’t like them, but Aaron is also a trained journalist, not a ‘conceptualist’, so he includes them as descriptive information for the viewer and NOT as necessary to augment/define the work….

    in fact, the essays works for me so well because it is so ambiguous, so integrated (story of exodus and the community within the greater arab community there, something very very different than what we usually get about the jewish community which it it’s difference/exclusion, etc)…

    scratching my head totally…

  16. Not everyone knows about the Jews and their ways, most wouldn’t know the difference between various Christian incarnations…………….. You are coming from a extensive knowledge base

    Hey Bob I am not a photographer these guys are and that is their media choice…… photography. As I said captions here are used to describe the photographs content. I don’t use captions I use text, anyway it is not about my work where photography is used as a supplement.
    I passed the essay for others to look at none came up with the Jewish angle saw it mainly about the exotics of the Middle East

  17. Imants, I believe this is intended as a work of photojournalism, which typically means that photographs are used to illustrate a story. Captions are a necessary convention of the genre, as you aptly demonstrate.

    Nice piece of photojournalism, at that.


    i can see this work as either having captions or context or simply as photographs….context is good to help us understand photographer motive perhaps at least in this presentation which is indeed falling into the photojournalism category…but Aaron could have easily played this differently and relied totally on the imagery…just imagine Imants if you applied some of your techniques, graphics, typography, demonic reference, music, to these images…sure it would be a whole different message, but no less powerful, maybe more powerful…Aaron has chosen this way to show these pictures which given his background is certainly the most obvious way…but good photography at its purest image strong best can be presented many ways….we have had several essays lately where context was important…i tend to publish things in series here on Burn which some notice and some do not…the next series will be much more abstract…Imants waiting for your work…and you too Bob….the beauty is always in the telling…and the voices here have no limits…

    cheers, david

  19. Lovely essay… subtle, so very delicate, gentle like a whisper. I will never be able to make an essay so quiet and tender… I´m just too aggressive as a photographer. I would be bloody proud if I created something so fine.
    The only thing I´ve been wondering about this essay last night, was what a pity it hadn´t been shot on film… I was missing the deep shadows/blacks, colour film provides automatically… but then this essay wouldn´t be probably so ethereal. Maybe I just find it a little too digital, I´ve even got a feeling this was shot with either a 5d or 5dII.
    Anyway beautiful, beautiful!!

  20. Captions, even little stories, are good things to have in photo essays. I simply do not hold to this idea that to be of true depth and value and to hold to the highest standards of photography, photos and photo essays must all be able stand wordless and that it is best that they do so. One can watch a good movie in silence and come away feeling that he has grasped a basic story, but does that mean that to be true and strong to its art form, a movie should be silent?

    That said, I think the pictures in this essay can stand alone. A viewer could spend time pondering and studying them without ever reading a word and strong stories would come into his mind. These stories may be completely different than what we get after reading the captions.

    The captions are good.

  21. I do love this project, but wanted to point out some historical context that I feel is relevant. The loss of Diaspora life deeply saddens me. Languages, music, food, architecture, etc, being left behind as relics all over the world. But what is sadder to me is that most of these people were compelled to leave these lands in the first place. Most after a long history of violence or social injustice.

    True, the Jews of Morocco had it quite good for generations compared to many around the world, but they were never fully accepted as equals. This is why they left for Israel in the end, because they wanted a better life, a country built by themselves from the ground up. Not just being tolerated but inherent citizens and deserving of permanent rights. They had to leave behind something special, of course, hundreds of years of a beautiful culture. They left behind complex memories – both of happiness and hardship. Not just around WWII but in previous centuries as well. Riots, rape, prejudice, limited rights, etc etc. That some Jews excelled in the face of hardship is typical in Jewish history, but that does not mean all was well. A similar case existed in Poland… Throughout history there have been numerous cases where Jews became an accepted and integral citizens of societies. However, as history shows, they were still perceived as “others” and eventually things deteriorated.

    Some background info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Morocco

    I think it’s important for Jewish people to feel nostalgic about their ancestral lands for all of the good things. But it is also important to delve into the complex history to develop understanding of why people migrate, and what exactly it is they left, for better or worse.

  22. Danny.

    “I think it’s important for Jewish people to feel nostalgic about their ancestral lands for all of the good things. But it is also important to delve into the complex history to develop understanding of why people migrate, and what exactly it is they left, for better or worse.”

    Well said.

  23. IMANTS:

    Hey, young man ;))…i don’t think it has to do with whether or not I was familiar with this work. Because 2 1/2 – 3 weeks ago, I knew nothing about this work, none whatsoever. I’d met Aaron, was introduced to him this summer by another young photographer who i’d been mentoring/chatting with for 9 months (they were friends and are now part of a collective they’ve started). When Aaron first mentioned that he’d like to show me his work on Morocco was earlier in the fall at a project I’d attended with don and others. At that time, I thought ‘morrocco: probably something akin to the normal PJ stories we see about Morocco.’ I had no idea of the content, nor did I imagine that the subject would be the small jewish community still exant there. When we finally met to drink and look at the pics, i was so happy to see the work and for Aaron (i think i mentioned that in my first comment). I immediately thought: ‘gotta get Burn to see this work.” I saw the story and all the pictures (all the pictures that you see here and many many more) without captions, without a artist statement, without anykind of context or explanation. In fact, whenever i look at another photographers work (especially young photographers who ask for my opinion/ideas/help), i want to interact with the pictures raw, without language…i want to experience the work to see if i’m both struck and if something (narratively) arrives. It absolutely did. I saw all kinds of stories in these pictures, both literal and metaphoric. the Jewish component was very very clear on first viewing, not only because of the obvious cultural keys/images, but there seemed to be something clear here about Exodus, Diaspora, loss…

    maybe it’s just me. I tend, as you know, to see and think metaphorically, not literally. It’s my nature and it informs how i write and how i photograph and how i construct the things i write and photograph. but it also informs the way i read books and also look at photos and photo stories. I think this point is VERY IMPORTANT. As you an I have discussed many times, in public and private, it is so important that viewers and photographers learn to read, learn to read stories and learn to read pictures. It doesn’t mean that have to be critics, it doesn’t mean that they have to be able to articulate their opinions/feelings/thoughts the same as others (I might mention too here that Aaron is a really intelligent guy, thoughtful and thinking, but he is very quiet and doesn’t really ‘talk’ much, he’s more a listener and talks through his pictures). It doesn’t meant that viewers have to ‘interpret’ work. It just means, imho, they MUST (especially if they are photographers themselves, and Burn is a magazine for photographers and for aspiring/emerging photographers), they must be able to LOOK AT WORK and UNDERSTAND WORK. Not necessarily THE understanding (there are known) but at least be able to get their feeling for how pictures work, how they work together, etc.

    Aaron’s story did not need captions to get me juiced and thinking, not at all. In fact, I prefer to look at pictures without captions, as I mentioned. There are many reasons for this. I hate literal truths and literal explanations (that’s why i was always frustrated when working for a newspaper long ago). I also don’t want to be told by the author, i want to work things out, to think about them, to hunt, to sniff. I also like evocation: pictures always evoke and provoke something for me and that is what happened here. It had nothing to do with knowing the work as I knew nothing about it initially, but the work gave me what I needed as a story and from that spark, my interest/desire to know/see/learn more grew.

    But Aaron is also a journalist and captions are important in journalism (i hate them still, but recognize their necessity) because people need factual information to moor the subjectivity of the photograph, to discount it’s interpretation AND to provide communicative information for the reader. This is a necessary service and part of journalism and why captions are important: it’s a kind of ethic, something that can be verified so that things aren’t made up. But you and I both know that we both prefer the ‘made up’ because, in truth, even journalism (photographically) is made up, is a construction, a slice of something invented, made from the cloth of reality. But that is an entire different discussion ;))))…Aaron abides that principle and so included the captions as a way to provide more specific information/details to the viewer in order to communicate the verifiable ‘facts’ of the pictures/people/places. It also can help those photographs that are more ambiguous or without detail markers that signify the exact details (shit, this sounds like my old semiotics class).

    So, I guess I was just surprised because you are an acute and intelligent and trained reader of images (maker too) and it’s clear that Aaron didn’t need the captions to justify/clarify/enhance this work…in fact, i frankly prefer it more open ended and mysterious and poetic and lyrical, but I grant him and the readers that need/necessity. Look at image #40…when i first saw that picture, i was captivated: who is he, what is he doing, why that expression, the fold of his body…it seemed like a mment from a spy movie…now i personally don’t need to know the facts (now provided as a caption) for it to be an amazing/mysterious image….but i understand why others do…but that doesn’t mean that Danny NEEDS the captions for this story to be powerful…both powerful as document/journalism and powerful as lyrical poem…

    if i had a book of these images, this project….i would not want the captions….i would want a nice introductory essay talking about the history/place/context and then the pictures silence…and then maybe an end note that allowed me the details, if i wanted…maybe page titles for the pics, but nothing else..

    incidentally, i showed 2 of aaron’s friends Winogrand 1964 when they came over to my place before i left for moscow:

    not a single caption in that whole book….

    just simple titles of location….

    take away the titles and this work still resonates with me as strong powerful classic journalism…

    as for text and pictures ;)))))…..well, i’m giving david something about that..and trust me, i will not use captions at all either ;))))))))))))))))….


  24. DAVID/BILL/JOHN G: :))

    THAT’S it…the thing is that images are NOT PURE but that they do NOT need accompanying descriptions…some photographers (mostly journalists) use them, as i described above, as both a form of journalistic ethic (what is verifiable) and what communicates concrete information to the reader. Cause so many readers (beginning with newspapers) look at a picture and want to know ‘what’ is this/why/how/when/where, etc….i tend to prefer abstraction/ambiguity…questions more than answers….joyce to hemingway, but i love both 2, so they provide an important service, a communicative and note-oriented detail important for many viewers…and that is ok by me….i don’t need them, but i value them….they don’t ‘add’ to the photographic narrative’s power, they merely provide additional information that allows me both a closer understanding (factually) of what is happening in the picture and about the context of the picture…but they don’t enhance the narrative’s power…some stories, however, need the captions, the text to strengthen…and that is a trickier situation….the fact is, for me, that a good photographic story doesn’t need them and is open to many many readings…because life is a construction to begin with…that Aaron uses them is totally fine by me and actually extends the information and the ‘educational’ value of this story….so, i say, shit, go for it…that’s cool with me….but as i wrote Imants, i prefer ambiguity and i don’t really every want to understand everything about a picture or a narrative….what’s the point…the unknown is what makes things so gorgeous and devine….

    One difference, as MW pointed out with Lassal’s timestamp captions: those are great, because they provide both information but also serve as an aesthetic key….those are the kind of captions i like….anyway…

    DAVID :)) yes….u will have the landscape/abstract/text piece….digesting russia at the moment, A BAG FILLED with fill…and just waiting before i re-open and replay with the landscape thing, but will send it….patience ;))))….i promised myself, after last year, i’d never rush anything….that story is about both text and pictures….worth the wait i hope :)))…my money (little i have) is where my moth is ;)))

    Danny :))…nice, indeed :)


  25. and last thing (i promise) about captions…they always remind of that great Tom Wait’s quote….

    “The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away.”


  26. “This work represents a journey into the remnants of this cultural exodus and aims to reveal a history of co-existence that has been lost in the wake of Zionism.”
    Bill the photographer obviously has a message to convey and that is presented in his statement. Do you really think that he as a photojournalist wants us to come up with our own stories like it is about some sort of purge of the Jews of Morocco or the arrogance of the Jews towards other cultures or even that it is just a travel piece for tourism.
    As I have stated before if one needs captions to describe visual content, they are not open for our own interpretation. The captions are there to force us to follow a particular path that the photographs fail to convey on their own as stand alones.
    My main point is this really where photography belongs as essays because the adding of captions highlights the shortcomings of photography as a effective form of communication. It all becomes sort of a blog

  27. Although I too generally prefer photographs, and essays, without captions, I think it’s important to respect both the photographer’s intent and the genre, if there is one, to which the photographs belong. In this case, I doubt there are 100 people on earth who would get that this essay is about a Jewish exodus from Morocco without the written info and it’s quite clear that the photographer wants people to know that that’s what this essay is about. I might have even been one of them if challenged, but I doubt it. Yes, it obviously has something to do with Jewish people. And maybe I would guess it was shot in Morocco (I have been to Essaouira), or more likely North Africa, but I’ve never been to Israel and have no idea what most of it looks like and might just assume the photos were shot there. Or in some other Muslim country. But the idea of absence is the most difficult thing to communicate visually. Knowing that it’s about that, I can see and appreciate the many references throughout the essay, but without some pretty strong hint, I think it unlikely many would get it.

    Hate to get off on this tangent. It’s very accomplished work. Congratulations.

  28. Bob my statement was not just about me they are about the wider audience to whom the so called cultural keys/images are not obvious.

    Simply put today’s audiences require a lot more that a photographs that era is gone.

  29. “Do you really think that he as a photojournalist wants us to come up with our own stories like it is about some sort of purge of the Jews of Morocco or the arrogance of the Jews towards other cultures or even that it is just a travel piece for tourism.”

    Imants – that’s my point – words and photos work well together.

    “It all becomes sort of a blog.” I suppose if I were feeling super sensitive, I could take this as a personal slam, but really, a blog is just another step in communication. Some blogs communicate effectively, some do not. Some photos are great to stand alone. Some are greatly enhanced by the use words, but that does not lessen or demean them. Words, too, can stand alone, but sometimes are enhanced by photographs.

    In this case, I think the artist worked the words and photos into an effective package. Yes, the photos can stand alone and if alone some will tell a different story to different readers than the story that the photographer intended. But this is true to one degree or another with all photos – even the ones that you may think speak strongly and clearly to you without the need of a word. Someone else may look at that photo and come up with an entirely different meaning.

    I will go back to when I was a child and a spread on the holocaust was published somewhere and it included photos of naked and emaciated prisoners who had just been liberated from the Nazis. Pretty clear message, I would say – any of us could look at it and understand – but I heard it condemned as pornography, something that would corrupt innocent children like me, because it showed naked people.

    In this case, the photographer created a strong package of words and photos, working together and, in so doing, makes a statement that neither the photos nor the words would quite make alone.

  30. Where did I state a negative towards blogs. I never wrote that blogs were not a effective form of communication where did I state that text and captions were not effective forms of communication. You just made all that up to suit your argument
    Spread the same images in front of a war hungry racist group of people and they will interpret the images as a job well done.

    I never wrote that it was wrong to add captions all I have stated is the the photos cannot stand alone and communicate the intent they rely on captions. This is not a photographic essay …it is photography with the text directing the flow of information

  31. Not sure why there is some aversion to words with pictures. When we quarrel about the words under the photo essays here on Burn, it’s because the words are inaccurate or not very good. There is no way documentary photography will work without locating and contextualizing the photo. Can you imagine Salgado’s or Nachtwey’s pictures without captions? How would we know if we were in Rwanda or South Africa? I do agree, though, that captions should be precise and relevant, and they shouldn’t make claims the photo can’t support. There is an art to writing captions, and such used to be its own job at newspapers and magazines. Very few photographers are good captioners.

    This is a very fine essay here, though some of it to me seems redundant, and the captions help to reinforce some of the redundancy.

  32. Damn, Imants – with the exception of your final statement, which I just disagree with and no argument will change my feeling or yours, as I feel this a photo essay and it spoke to me as a photo essay, it appears in some ways that we are saying pretty much the same thing.

    But I am using up valuable blogging time by engaging in an argument that no one can win and while it is kind of fun and gave me a chuckle or two, I think I will bow out now. You might prefer the term, “cut and run” to “bow out,” but either way, I will move on.

  33. PRESTON…

    why would a photo have to support “claims” made by a caption? i actually do not quite understand what you mean…i do agree that there is an art to writing captions and at the best magazines there is a caption writing staff…photographers generally provide the basic information, but it takes a true wordsmith to create words that do not describe what the picture may already show, but give additional information that may be ascribed to the context of the photograph…

    cheers, david

  34. David A.H. —
    I believe Preston is agreeing with you, that captions are an art.
    He said:
    ” I do agree, though, that captions should be precise and relevant, and they shouldn’t make claims the photo can’t support. There is an art to writing captions, and such used to be its own job at newspapers and magazines. Very few photographers are good captioners.”

    He’s not, I don’t believe, saying that a photo should support the caption, but that a well written caption should support a photo.

    But… I will butt out, maybe it is I who have misread you.


  35. Aaron, Congratulations and a great essay. I am curious if number 23 under portfolio on your web site was part of this essay that you did not include here on burn. I really enjoy the feel of that image. Once again congratulations.

    “Can you imagine Salgado’s or Nachtwey’s pictures without captions?” ABSOLUTELY YES!
    The only really honest way to view them.
    Remove our NEED to feel better about our selves by ASSUMING we now know something about the actual people in these shots.(which, of course few but the actual photographer do)
    By assuming we are now better morally because we are aware of issues other people are facing.
    All such pictures are propaganda. They all serve a cause. In the case of natchwey and salgado they are almost certainly righteous causes, but they are still propaganda.
    By recognising that and refusing to view them in that context you are free to see just the craft inherent in the image…..or not.

  37. I doubt that in many other (Muslim or not) countries there would be pictures of King Mohammed V attached to the walls in schools and/or churches/synagogues/stores/homes/whatnot.. the clues are there, same with the feel of loss, symbols.. of course it depends on how educated the audience is and also on how much time it is willing to invest in looking and reading the pictures, and perhaps from there looking for more. I doubt this essay alone wants us to know everything about Jewish exodus’, diaspora, Morocco, or any of the other themes we can find within it. This is not ALL, this is one piece of work by one photographer, his point of view.

  38. So a photographic essay is only photos. No sound? No text? All those “essays” at Magnum and elsewhere… not essays at all? Somebody should really tell them to stop calling them that then.

  39. isn’t this discussion just a bit academic? don’t we all know that depending on where and how they are viewed, sometimes pictures need captions and sometimes they do not? …

    i.e. if my work appears in a mass circulation magazine, it will most likely have a caption for context..if that same photograph appears in one of my books, it will not have a caption…in one the photographs are assumed to be utilitarian, to make a point, or to “explain” to somebody something, whereas in a book of work, they are there simply as visual stand alone art…

    some photographic essays need written context , some do not…the irony for me here is that both Imants and John Gladdy seem to be supporting the notion of “image only” have work which is totally supported by music, graphics etc etc…any difference between music, typography, and captions?

    it seems to me , based on what you show me anyway, that you two are totally dependent on something besides the photograph itself, so it seems odd that you are both making the argument for “picture only”..Imants you only show pictures in the context of strong type, music, drawings, mystical reference etc etc..i love this work Imants, but they are not pictures only……now John same for you ..i agree with what you SAY , but please link your Speakers Corner here and see if anyone would see those pictures as pictures not needing written context…i know you do not want it, but you just might need it…i will never see those images as simply photographs……but get the opinions of others here or elsewhere please please.. your portraits on the other hand are definitely single stand along images with or without words….

    in any case, i do not see this as an either/or right/wrong conclusion…the interpretation of what an essay is or isn’t could go on forever…there is the “picture story” from yesteryear which told everything , or almost everything, in the pictures like Smith’s Country Doctor for example…or the more sophisticated essays of today like Frazier’s Detroit…both employ pictures that can stand on their own..that is a given for me with any talented photographer..but both also use words to set up the context…the pictures COULD live without the words, but they take on another meaning with the words..

    having said all of this, PERSONALLY i just like viewing pictures for their own sake…just as pictures in and of themselves….no caption, no music, no outside references of any kind…i judge a photographer by this alone…to understand their sense of visual literacy is all that matters to me…the rest is all about presentation to either a mass audience or a tighter theoretically more sophisticated audience…but in the end, the photograph is the photograph….

    cheers, david

  40. What is missing here is contemporary practice and it’s implications on the photographic media. The placement of old photographic practice within the arena of new technologies has shown the shortcomings of the still image.

  41. If sound is used for example to place the image into a new context ie as a multi media piece anything goes if it is used merely as a support it doesn’t work. The latter I know too well

  42. IMANTS:

    “The placement of old photographic practice within the arena of new technologies has shown the shortcomings of the still image.”


    now, both of us deal with pushing boundaries and both of us teach and both of us work/mentor/teach young folks and kids….BUT, i have to tell you that the concept of Mash-up actually has increasingly defined the need and love of the image, the song, the text itself as a stand-alone empowering model of effort….

    the truth is that THIS ESSAY DOES WORK…for it’s traditional sense…does that eliminate more contemporary approaches to image-based story telling…of course not…

    listen: i still love to listen to JJ kill mashups and to beethoven….and i still read tolstoy and to more challenging ideas of fictional narrative….

    the new, sophisticated audience requires nothing but what they need individually and that is defined by themselves…not by us…


  43. On a different note most of us would be better off hanging around tourist spots and wait for tourists to ask us to take shots of them using their cameras……………… I guess we would find our work in numerous private collections throughout the world.

  44. By recognising that [photos with authorial intent are propaganda] and refusing to view them in that context you are free to see just the craft inherent in the image…

    Two things:

    One, it’s difficult to define the term “propaganda” in a manner that everyone will accept. Neutrally, it is defined much the same as “rhetoric,” as communication with intent to persuade. More commonly, and the way I use it, propaganda is defined more as deceptive communication that appeals to the emotions. Either way, I don’t see how this essay could be accurately described as propaganda. Oh, I guess one could dig deep and maybe find an anti-Zionist message, but it doesn’t seem to be trying to persuade anyone of anything and it doesn’t appear deceptive in any way. Of course it’s altogether possible that I’m missing something, but to me this appears to be as close to pure documentary photography as one can hope to find. Sure, it appeals to certain emotions, but I see no deceptive persuasion going on there. Lacking the propagandistic element, appealing to the emotions is more likely a good thing in arts and letters.

    Two, not everyone gives a flying fuck about any craft inherent in an image. The old saw about not seeing the forest for the trees was coined for just that kind of reverence for craft over substance.

  45. ”i just like viewing pictures for their own sake”…well that makes ME feel better! I can’t claim any deep knowledge on documentary photography YET, so as usual with every essay on burn I just enjoy or dislike the images…

  46. IMANTS…

    well, new things need to be invented by the contemporary generation…and i think they are doing it or are about to do it…i am not so sure that we will not see a parallel development with the new technology taking us way way out there in terms of communication..that is clearly happening…and at the same time a resurgence of what you call “old photographic practice”…i do not know about you , but for me standing in front of “old painting practice, and old sculpture practice ” at the Met still rocks my boat…

    i do not think we can ever consider that everything is on an arrow line moving FORWARD…i like to see art as much more circular….influences influencing influences etc etc…and i sure as hell do not see any shortcomings of the still image..yes, of course, the placement and use in media will change..no big deal…video combined with stills the only future?? stills, music, combined with motion has been around since i was in college..just easier to do now , but does that mean THE only way to communicate? i doubt it..

    trying too hard to keep up, be new and different, be the flavor on the month, will kill any creative person faster than a speeding bullet….

    i really think the still image will grow in power , not recede…yes, for mass communication video is the king…i am talking about the power of the still image when you hold a print in your hand…the electronic media rushes us through life as if it were not fast enough already…sound bites it….kills off a lot of it….i am heading for the dark room….and for film…antique? yea maybe..but do you want an Ikea table or a hand made oak masterpiece? both work…and choices to both the consumer and to the crafts person…

    exciting times all around Imants…and when the dust settles , you will see that some of the magic will have happened right here….now, waiting for your work!!!

    cheers, david

  47. IMANTS:

    you ARE missing the picture…if you look at any survey of, for example, contemporary photobooks, photoprojecs, on line virtual photoprojects being used (including my beloved chinese Cao, rmbcity), you’ll see A HUGE spectrum of conveyance and modesl of image making…including ‘traditional’…it is NOT THE FORM that matters but how it is conveyed…..

    the truth is that narrative is specific to both culture and individual and yet still has some kind of universality and this accords…that is, EACH story requires it’s own form…and that form is not ABLE to be used/read/swallowed by an audience eager, delerious, consuming of all forms….

    in your pitch, the paradox is that you’re ‘forcing’ a codified understanding of what constitutes the new and yet refusing to see that the new involves ALL modes of expression and …


    and open source means taking code and using it as you see best…

    Aaron has done this, period..

    and i will do it much differently soon, you’ll see..

    and BOTH ABIDE…

  48. Hey I am quite happy to admit that I struggle with the still image in today’s contemporary practice and maybe it will be a come a victim and no longer be used by me.

  49. Burning Red Hot!!!!!!!!

    Love it, Love it, LOVE IT >>>>>>> like a sunrise over Jupiter >>>>>>>>

    Where is CIVI??? – copy >>>>>>>>

    loosing signal >>>>>>>>> – copy

    Bobby Boy….. cook me some beans and make em funky >>>>>>>>


  50. Late here off work in a few hours need some good quality zedz……… the stuff is done David probably send it tomorrow then you can post it and the burn lads can give it a right shellacking… grin

  51. IMANTS:

    form DOES MATTER….BUT…it must be defined by both the content and the author’s intent…..and not the viewer’s intent….

    i think, honestly, you are way too stuck on the concept that the Burn audience is not sophisticated enough…that’s, frankly, arrogant….the commentators and the silent majority are much more sophisticated that you are want to credit them…frankly…sorry…

    by you sound a bit distyeptic….;)))…i mean that lovingly…but, it sounds like an old rant from an a conservative thinker couched in the language of the new…

    we are not a gadget…..ponimaesh?….

    SPACE COWBOY! :))))))))))))))

    MY BELOVED….special special pork and beans pork and beans comming for you JAM-MASTER FLASH! :)))


  52. ALL “.i agree with what you SAY , but please link your Speakers Corner here and see if anyone would see those pictures as pictures not needing written context”
    why not.

    or if you are a masochist.

    pretty much all non imagery apparently :))
    I will try harder next time. honest.

    ……Dont suppose I could interest anyone in the 365×2 picture essay of my toilet bowl before and after use that I am calling the price of life- a study of the side effects of anti viral medication.
    No? …just as well..if I ever do a set of pictures like that you may stone me to death.

    keep smiling and debating and have a great day.


  53. JOHN..

    laughing…i did not say non-imagery…you are putting words in my mouth….i said pictures that needed context…there IS a difference…thanks for posting, although i think we are all chatting in the wrong place..my fault..i thought this conversation was going on in Dialogue and here we are under Aaron essay…i think i will repost over in Dialogue

    cheers, david

  54. “link your Speakers Corner here and see if anyone would see those pictures as pictures not needing written context”

    Me. Not needing written context that is.

    Can be that ‘Speakers Corner’ is enough to me, since I know what it is about. So perhaps my vote doesn’t count.

  55. Or, one could just take Winogrand’s perspective: “I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph”

  56. I definitely don’t mind looking through this essay more than once! My only knowledge of Morocco and Casablanca has, until now, been based on the movie from the 40’s. The movie left an impression of a multicultural and pulsating city with a lot of immigrants at that particular time when the war was going on, but the movie did not focus particularly on the jews, if I remember correctly, so your chosen topic was interesting to dive into for me. You’ve captured the abandoned feeling nicely, gained access to several relevant events and there is a nice flow and variation going on in the selection. #35 has to be my favourite, the overexposed faces tells me it isn’t so much about these people, but about the act of studying the old pictures; seeking the past. Brilliant ending with the coin at the end.

  57. Questioning the role of he image in our present society is not a negative just as there is a need to review old practices that have had their day. Adding a descriptor caption as in this essay and many others alters what most treasure about a a visual, the poetic metaphor that is ingrained in a photograph. Language/text has a greater impact on the audience as it is more direct in nature and as caption controls how we read the image.
    Bob I do not think there is anything a loving about your statement and I do recall your statements about certain sites and those that post.

  58. This is one hard party to arrive late to.

    I found the photoessay well structured, with a lot of depth. The text helped provide a context, to clarify and deepen (for me) some of the visual cues. There’s probably a fair amount in the imagery that I didn’t connect with, due to my own background and knowledge-limits, but the imagery compelled me to want to know more about the specifics. I think that’s important. I think it’s one of the modes where visuals, and specifically photography, can operate more successfully than words. Words are often considered too concrete, too specific, when we sometimes need suggestion; a more suggestive presentation can pique our interest in then discovering more of the concrete. Or sometimes say all there is to say about something which is, by nature, somewhat ambiguous. So I think the photoessay works, both for those (like myself) with little knowledge of the specifics, and for those with a better grounding in the subject matter.

    Wittgenstein once said, “about what one can not speak, one must remain silent.” He didn’t say anything about us not taking pictures, though…Perhaps Wittgenstein should have said, “About what one can not speak, one must let other arts explore”. Just a thought.

  59. IMANTS:

    as one who has ruthlessly berated, often without humor, others here, and often, I am saddened to see that my attempt to challenge and work a, yes, loving (read: playful) questioning of your questioning here, turns itself to doubt is, yep, a disappointment….

    “burn lads can give it a right shellacking”…

    call me wearied of your bait and switches….

    and please, no more murky “I do recall your statements about certain sites and those that post.”…

    how about all sites and all commentators that slog off work and slog off others, personally or through invective….

    i’m tired of this game….frankly….

    i don’t piss all over people, use foul language and attack…

    for someone who denigrates work a lot, you sure are eager to publish here…and to get help for your books too….

    you and i are indeed, very different…

    i guess we part the way of waters then…


    i’ll pass on your pub…as i’m not into giving work shellackings…

    sail well the new walls and dendrites….



  60. “as one who has ruthlessly berated, often without humor, others here, and often, I am saddened to see that my attempt to challenge and work a, yes, loving (read: playful) questioning of your questioning here, turns itself to doubt is, yep, a disappointment….”…

    sorry, that should read:

    “as one who has ruthlessly berated, often without humor, others here, and often, you’ve now turned an odd course of corrosive reaction which has saddened me: to see that my attempt to challenge and work a, yes, loving (read: playful) questioning of your questioning here, turns itself to doubt is, yep, a disappointment….”

    idiotic (me/mine) dangling modifiers ;))

  61. “i don’t piss all over people”,…… you sure did here

    “by you sound a bit distyeptic….;)))…i mean that lovingly…but, it sounds like an old rant from an a conservative thinker couched in the language of the new…”………… what is the lovingly part here?
    doesn’t matter just keep on running

  62. Pity Aaron’s essay has been mired with comment, essay etc. side issues.

    Aaron, I waited to post until after I had an opportunity to view the photographs large and I’m glad I did. Wonderful photography and evocative storytelling. One can feel the sense of loss: of what was and what never will be again.

    Are you going to continue this essay Aaron or do you consider it finished? I wondered if you may consider broadening its scope to include the loss of Jewish culture (is it lost?) in Europe. I understand that this would take you away from your original exploration of your family ties to Morocco and the co-existence of Jew and Muslim but, considering that the jewish exodus from Morocco was, at least in part, influenced by the Holocaust, it may be appropriate.

    Congratulations on being published here,


  63. Mike,

    Do I consider it finished??

    not really… the story continues, the community is not gone yet… but right now I’m happy with it. It’s something I wish to continue in Morocco over the long term, but don’t feel the need to rush it quite yet.. I’m in love with the country. It really captured my soul, and for this reason alone I must return, but I’m waiting for when the timing feels right… it could be tomorrow or in five years? I don’t know, but I do know Marrakech will tug at me again. There are so many amazing stories and dimensions there involving the Jewish history and community, this work is really a reflection of my brief personal journey through it.. but there is so much more.

    Expanding on this work is something that I have considered… Theoretically I could focus on this one issue for years and years… there are so many places throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East that can be explored. I have yet to commit to the idea, but it is bubbling away up there. It could make an amazing book couldn’t it…

    Imants… Bob… get each others e-mails why don’t ya ;)))

  64. Aaron I reckon there are far too many “descriptor captions” in this essay, not every image needs a descriptor especially ones stating like, Two girls walking down the street…………. We can see this and if we have read the odd caption say 3 images ago we will gather that it is in a area of significance.
    I am not against using text by any means but I do feel that in an essay of this nature some of the images say in groups of three , two or even four should be caption less so the reader/ audience can explore on their own.
    I also do find essays that contain photos only intriguing and a great visual poetic journey.

  65. Imants I do appreciate your critique, you do have a good point. I honestly prefer no captions as well, but felt that some of the images needed them. Not all do though, and maybe I should have simply left those ones alone. What I like about this format though is that you can view the images without the captions if you choose. I personally always view without captions first and read them on the second go if I am interested in learning more.


  66. Hey, I bowed out, cut and ran, or whatever, because I can recognize a futile and pointless argument once I find myself in the midst of it, but not to try to change your mind, Imants, because if you want to let these kind of things irritate you, well thing, have at it and enjoy the fury, but just to demonstrate others can legitimately view the same thing quite differently than you do, I must say:

    I like the “Two girls walk down the street…” caption. Yes, I can see they are walking down a street, but the repetition in the words evokes a certain feeling in me that for me enhances the overall experience a bit.

    I would liken this to a Bach fugue, where one line is repetitious of another yet builds on and enhances the musical experience. I see a good photo essay with words in much the same way. The photos are one line of the fugue, the words another.

    Again, I do not seek to change your mind. Some things can’t be done. So what? It doesn’t matter. I don’t want you to think like me and I just see it differently than you do.

  67. They don’t irritate me…….. and I still reckon literal descriptive lines detract and on most occasions take over the image. A photo essay has no words, a musical piece has no words, a song has words a photojournalist uses words to direct and tell.

    In the “Two girls walk down the street…” caption. you are being directed down a certain path of experiences by the caption

  68. “A photo essay has no words.”

    After all these decades of viewing and reading what I mistakenly thought to be photo essays with words, I am glad to finally get the true, authoritative, word on the matter and to learn otherwise.

    I feel a little badly, though, in that we have gone so far off track after being given the opportunity to view and savor a fine set of photographs, enhanced by words, and instead of just taking it in, enjoying it and learning from it, we have been sidetracked in an exercise of pedanticism.

    Because that’s what this is – it is all pedantic.

    Oh, I know – a sentence should never begin with “because.” Same kind of thing.

  69. “Aaron I reckon there are far too many “descriptor captions” in this essay”

    Wait I thought this wasn’t an essay.

    “A photo essay has no words, a musical piece has no words, a song has words a photojournalist uses words to direct and tell.”

    Says who?

  70. I saw good photographs first, without reading any text. I found the photo quiet, with their simple and evocative look. Than I wanted to know more about this story (which I did not know before) suggested by the images and the captions were of help. After that I look again at the images…only the images, it worked.
    Great work Aaron and thank you for having let me know something I did not know before in such a quiet way…

  71. Aaron, thanks for responding and yes, it could indeed make an amazing book.

    Incidentally, I’m the opposite of you with regard to captions! I usually look at each photograph and read the caption and then view the photographs without. Does it matter? No.

    Frostfrog, like a “Bach fugue” … nice Bill, nice: have you been talking to Bob?

  72. Mike R – Thank you.

    Yes, Bob and I get together three times a week for coffee and philosophical discussion. Always, these visits are the highlight of my week.

    Actually, this metaphor came into my head sometime ago because throughout my whole career I have successfully been using words and photos together to tell the stories that I have sought to tell, but even so have continually encountered those who say one must either be a photographer or a writer and by them I have been judged both ways. There have been those who say that I am truly a photographer but that my words, while serviceable, are week. Others have maintained that, for a writer, I do a serviceable job with photos but that writing is my strength.

    Before I realized that I truly could not be a photographer, writer and a musician, I was also striving to be a classical guitarist and Bach was my favorite composer to perfrom and I of course love the form of the fugue. So I decided to use the fugue as my model for what I was trying to do as photographer/writer wrapped up in one package.

  73. Mike R – Thank you.

    Yes, Bob and I get together three times a week for coffee and philosophical discussion. Always, these visits are the highlight of my week.

    Actually, this metaphor came into my head sometime ago because throughout my whole career I have successfully been using words and photos together to tell the stories that I have sought to tell, but even so have continually encountered those who say one must either be a photographer or a writer and by them I have been judged both ways. There have been those who say that I am truly a photographer but that my words, while serviceable, are week. Others have maintained that, for a writer, I do a serviceable job with photos but that writing is my strength.

    Before I realized that I truly could not be a photographer, writer and a musician, I was also striving to be a classical guitarist and Bach was my favorite composer to perfrom and I of course love the form of the fugue. So I decided to use the fugue as my model for what I was trying to do as photographer/writer wrapped up in one package.

    Part of what I do is to shoot essays. I always write with them. But Imants was telling me that I can’t do this and I just kind of resent it when someone tells me I can’t do what I do, because they know better.

    Again, my apologies to Aaron. You presented a strong, powerful and thought provoking essay. You did it well and that is where the discussion should have remained. It should not have gone off on a pedantic side trip. I am sorry for my role in allowing it to do so.

  74. Imants – Part of what I do is to create photo essays, with words. Just follow your own trail. You said that a photo essay does not have words. If this is true, than a photo essay with words cannot exist. If it can not exist, then I can not do it. Therefore, you said I cannot do what I do, because part of what I do is to create photo essays with words.

  75. Of course you never said text and photographs shouldn’t be done – you just put your own, limited, very arbitrary, pedantic and wrong-headed definition on what can qualify as a photo essay and what can not. I will leave the last word to you, because I think it is time to move along.

  76. Then why did you bring it up again……… I was happy to leave it but you said I was telling you what to do which was not true ………… I’m outa ‘ere

  77. Oh, heck – you had to end with a completely false statement which I must refute:

    “but you said I was telling you what to do which was not true”

    I never said any such thing.

  78. Obviously, “telling you what what to do” and “telling me that I can’t do this…” do not mean the same thing at all.

    Imants, you are one who twists words into what they do not say – and you ignore context. Just go back and read – and read in context.

  79. .” I always write with them. But Imants was telling me that I can’t do this and I just kind of resent it when someone tells me I can’t do what I do, because they know better.” Where is the part I am telling you what you can and can’t do, I really don’t even know what you do…………..

  80. “You said that a photo essay does not have words. If this is true, than a photo essay with words cannot exist. If it can not exist, then I can not do it. Therefore, you said I cannot do what I do, because part of what I do is to create photo essays with words.”

    Imants, this is getting really old. Can you not grasp context? The whole point is that you have taken it upon yourself to establish the parameters of what can be a photo essay and what can’t. Even if you do not know and never will know what I do, you have already determined that I do not do photo essays, because by your definition a photo essay must stand alone without words and I write with words with my essays. You are wrong. I do shoot photo essays – and I write words to go with them.

    And Aaron shot a photo essay and he wrote with it.

  81. . So what I have established parameters but the point that you want to make is that I am telling you to follow them……where did I write that?…………. do whatever you please blog to your hearts content, maybe get a camera that talks and writes text, maybe even one that records people moving.

    Finally I should tell you what to do………….

  82. What part of what you wrote can’t you understand
    “Imants was telling me that I can’t do this”

    That is a lie I never told you anything of that nature ……………once again I have asked a few times to show me where it is written that I told you what to do or not to do but you refuse to do so .

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