Harry Gruyaert at the Magnum Gallery, Paris

While Belgian photographer and filmmaker Harry Gruyaert became fascinated by the power of colour when he first moved to Paris in the 1960s, and subsequently on his first trip to New York in 1968 where he saw the works of Pop artists Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg, his revelation that colour photography was his preferred medium came from his very first trip to Morocco in 1969. Reminiscent of artists Eugène Delacroix and Henri Matisse, this revelation had a long-lasting impact on Gruyaert’s oeuvre which he decided to entirely dedicate to colour photography.

The exhibition presented at the Magnum Gallery in Paris celebrates this realization and spotlights one of his most significant and poetic bodies of works, spanning 40 years of the artist’s work. During his many trips to Morocco, Gruyaert developed a highly personal photographic language, revealing the essence of the colours, landscapes and people he saw and met.

“The first time I went to Morocco, it was love at first sight. Then, I went back to find some places again, to relive the initial emotion, and did this for almost forty years. What seduced me in the first place was the order of things and life in the countryside. There, there was a splendid balance of forms, colours, everyday gestures and nature. The importance of family, group, and religion also fascinated me. At least in the countryside, habit, custom prevail and signify what everyone are. I do not mean to say that Morocco is an immutable country, free from changes and contradictions, but simply that rural residents are still submitted to rules, secular or religious, that we lack in Europe.” Harry Gruyaert said about Morocco.

“In this striking selection of works, draped silhouettes and faceless shadows cohabit in warm ochre surroundings. His intuitive approach allowed him to capture the feelings of pride and reserve inherent to Moroccan culture as seen in the opening work of the show, where we see the profile of a young woman in a region of the High Atlas mountains. Some women and men hid their faces with modesty while others turned their back on the stranger that he was. This reluctance to be photographed was enjoyable to him, as it illustrated Moroccans’ state of mind.” Samantha McCoy, Director of the Magnum Gallery and Curator of the exhibition said.

The Magnum Gallery runs MOROCCO, runs until 2 April 2021 at the gallery and online. Running until 1 April 2021, Museum Helmond features Gruyaert’s first retrospective exhibition in the Netherlands.

Image: MOROCCO. Region of the High Atlas. Msemir region. 1976 © Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos.