Aziz is 50-year-old fisherman who lives in a small coastal village in Morocco. He has a rare genetic disorder known in medical terms as being pseudo-hermaphrodite, the ‘third sex’. At birth, he was born with what appeared to be female genitalia and named Fatima, a name he went by for the next 20 years.
With Pseudohermaphrodites, their parents think they are girls, with what appears to be a vagina, right up until the age of puberty when testes and a penis begin forming.
Growing up in a Moroccan village would have been traumatic and information and discussion around such an issue would have been and still is scant. Some of the villagers refer to him as Fatima Aziz, and he is widely accepted by the fisherman, his friends and the many family members he has there.
Morocco only recently passed a law allowing a person’s identity to change gender with a doctor’s approval. Up until now, he has lived in limbo, his sense of identity unresolved.
The title refers not only to the core of the main character’s predicament but also to the process of photographically defining a person. Getting to know someone and the unique interaction that exists between the photographer and subject creates situations that reflect its own story, not necessarily one that family and friends would recognise.
Being outside the community one is photographing inevitably means that much of the social discourse is missed; built on historic factors that the photographer has no notion of, or happening in the most mundane of exchanges that are not picked up on. Consequently, the photographer cannot know what really lies at the heart of a village dynamic, derived from unsaid exchanges and presumptions. Each person has their view and in a country where absolute truth is not always a central focus, this is more apparent.
Discovering the layers of what makes a person interesting is part of the rich storytelling puzzle available to the photographer, and in this story, the content derives from what came into the photographer’s domain. Specifically one absent from a pre-planning or presumptions about what to photograph. Led as much by what the subject chose to reveal or lead the photographer towards, perhaps to the place where the subject themselves, discovered new ground.
This is the first instalment of what is tentatively a new approach to using narrative; to present a rolling story in chapters, which over time reveals new layers and understanding about subject and place, and seeks to also lead the subject towards a new understanding of themselves. One that is shaped by both the subject’s unspoken collaborative efforts to create ‘content’ and the photographer to shape the content by focusing on different visual strategies across the chapters. The use of language to interact between the photographer and subject is limited. Instead, the focus is on time spent together where situations and encounters naturally occur.
The project is intended to mix both colour and black-and-white images, using the latter to focus on imagery which could be perceived as relating to the feminine; more body-focused gestures. These are set against more masculine tasks in Morocco, related to fishing. What is fascinating and has emerged through sequence building, is how Aziz projects both feminine and masculine gestures via his postures and attire. This self-awareness of how he would like to be seen is fascinating for a photographer and shows the collaborative interplay between the subject and photographer, albeit an unspoken one.
The pathway to subjects and stories is available to anyone who wishes to explore the country with me on a Morocco Tour.