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Capturing modern Marrakech

Although my trip to Marrakech earlier this year feels like a long time ago now, the magic of the city has certainly stayed with me. 

This is in part through the wonderful selection of souvenirs we brought home with us, which have brought so much joy into our lives during this lockdown period. One of the most precious of these is the beautiful framed palm tree shadow print that I treated myself to at Marie Bastide’s small studio in Guéliz, on the third day of our trip. The purchase was a birthday present to myself, and now has pride of place in the small home office my boyfriend and I have both been working from over the past twelve weeks. I see it everyday – in fact, I’m looking up at it as I write these words – and we frequently nod to it and marvel at just how lucky we were to have snuck in one last adventure – and to such a beautiful place! – before the world turned upside down.

The photograph also holds wonderful memories because of the lady behind the print, Parisian-born photographer Marie Bastide, whose work I first came across on Instagram a few months before our trip, and whose studio I purposefully sought out because of my admiration for her signature photographic style; all glorious ochre hues, atmospheric shadows and mysterious hooded subjects. What I hadn’t anticipated though, was just how lovely she would be in person, how generous she would be with her time, or her eagerness to share with us the delights of her surrounding neighbourhood.

Marie opened her studio in October 2019 on the corner of two busy throughfares in Marrakech’s Guéliz neighburhood. The wide, French-era streets of area have an entirely different vibe to the traditional and relaxed old medina atmosphere, but while there are plenty of popular contemporary shops and tempting restaurants lining the streets, the Guéliz‘s heart lies with the artistic industries. Musée Yves Saint Laurent and Jardin Majorelle are a short walk away, and you will also find the Matisse Gallery, named for the famous French artist and dedicated to showcasing Moroccan artists, and contemporary David Bloch Gallery, in the local area. So of course, it was the perfect place for Marie to set up shop.

Originally trained as an architect, Marie’s studio practice today covers a wide range of creative projects alongside her personal photographic endeavours, with her small team working in the back studio separated from the gallery space by a sweeping curtain. Luis and I sat with Marie in the cosy bijoux gallery space at the front of her studio for a long while during our visit, perusing her photography archive and laser-etched kraftboard postcards, and chatting at length about her love for the city, as well as her favourite photographic processes (my boyfriend is an amateur photographer, so there was an instant bond!). I’d seen the space on Instagram before of course, but as gorgeous as it looks in these photos, it’s even better in reality. The light flooding in on two sides of the storefront gives the space a bright airy feel and perfectly sets the scene to explore her evocative photographic shots.

Deeply inspired by both the architectural and human soul of the city, Marie’s images capture the dusty warmth of Moroccan sunbeams cast into shadowed spaces, juxtaposed by colourful djellabas and the sultry ochre hues of the Medina walls, and as I perused the walls of her gallery I knew it would be a struggle to choose just one print to bring home with me (- but alas, cabin baggage allowances!). I finally settled upon the hazy summer tones of the palm tree shadow print you see in the centre of the top row below, as I knew it would tone wonderfully with the hues I was planning to bring into our new (at the time) office, but I’m definitely still thinking about adding at least two more of those below to our home in the future. I also love her diffusion line of laser-etched kraftboard artworks and cute postcards, les petits cartons, depicting simple line-drawn scenes of modern Moroccan life, which are hugely tactile and engaging.

As we looked through Marie’s immense body of work, we also chatted with her about the local area and the places we should be looking out for as we made our way round that afternoon. Her first recommendation turned out to be one of the highlight’s of our trip, +61, a relaxed modern dining restaurant with a beautifully serene vibe – she even called ahead to make sure we’d be able to get a table, as it’s one of the most popular new venues in the city.

So of course, I knew I wanted to feature Marie here on the blog and happily she agreed to be interviewed, and share a few of her ‘insider recommendations’ for Marrakech with you all too..

let’s meet… marie bastide

How long have you been living in Marrakech and what, initially, drew you to the city ?

I’ve been in Morocco for nearly 5 years now. I first discovered the city 7 years ago when I went to stay with a family member who was living there for a month, and immediately in love with the country, the people, the light, I don’t know… with everything! It was just obvious to me that I had to be here.

You studied architecture at first. How did these studies nourish your ongoing creative project?

I think my architectural studies really helped me to train my eye. Everything I do today has a graphic inspiration, an architectural composition. Moreover the architectural studies consist of a great variety of subjects, chief among them, humanities. You learn about the way people live, about geography, and about historical and cultural fundamentals. All of these elements inform my work today.

You’re best known for your photography, how would you describe your style and approach? Where do you find inspiration?

Let’s say my style is minimal and traditional at the same time. I’m always drawn to architecture, lines, and graphic composition. I’m constantly amazed by the simple, pure and beautiful things that characterise the country, and try my best to capture that in my work.

Your design studio is dedicated to a range of creative enterprises alongside photography. Can you tell me a little more about your recent and/or upcoming projects?

Yes! Our studio is more like a creative space where architects, graphic designers and illustrators work together in a spirit of cross fertilisation. We are currently working on the design of our new shop that just opened in BHV Paris. We are also working on a giant map of Marrakech, illustrated with all the city’s historical monuments.

You opened your studio gallery in Gueliz last year. What attracted you to this particular part of the city?   

Well, I love Guéliz. The atmosphere is very different from that of the medina; less crowded, not so many tourists, but I’m very happy to say that my clients are not only tourists but also locals. Besides, I live in Guéliz, close to my studio and before being a shop it was my office. It certainly is very easy to work from Guéliz!

How do you feel the city has evolved over the past few years?

Well, I have known Marrakech for 7 years now and it’s true this city is changing very fast, sometimes in a bad way, sometimes in a good way. Talking about districts, some places in the Medina are now too ‘pretty’, too tourist-oriented with all the shops mainly dedicated to shopping. I feel like it is missing a bit of that natural Moroccan disorder. Meanwhile in Guéliz, which until recently was only  a place for restaurants and nightclubs, it has now become a lovely district with some very nice new shops! Sometimes as I am driving through Marrakech on my scooter, I often stop to take a picture of a beautiful place, such as beautiful palm trees against an old wall. A few months later, there is a brand new building there instead of palm trees. It’s the sad part of being in a city, that grows that fast!

Where’s the best place in Marrakech for a good cup of coffee?

Well, I don’t drink coffee, so if you are talking about the taste of a good coffee I can’t tell you. But if you are talking about a location, there are a few terraces I love. It depends on my mood. If I’m in a working mood, I’ll go to a typical Moroccan coffee shop full of retired men talking, smoking a cigarette and enjoying a good coffee. I like when the place is crowded; it helps me concentrate. There are still a lot of typical coffee places in Guéliz. If I want to enjoy a nice brunch on a Sunday morning, I will go to L’escapade café, also in Guéliz, under the palm trees. And I like to go to Jema el Fna very early in the morning if it’s a day I’ve decided to go hunting for treasures in the medina… So, yes, it depends on my mood.

What’s your favourite place in Marrakech for a design fix? 

Definitely, the streets of the medina! I love the accumulation of houses. You know, when people are poor, they build their house little by little. At the end, you have something that appears incoherent. But it’s not, it’s very creative, architectural accidents that some may find ugly but that I find very interesting. It’s not the perfect riad that excites me. It’s the apparent mess of the medina streets, shops and buildings.

Name three places a first time visitor to the city should have on their itinerary.  

Apart from the very well known places like the famous historic spots, I always recommend visiting the Majorelle Garden, the flea market of Bab Khemis, and the Agafay desert. It’s 40 minutes away from Marrakech but it’s definitely worth the trip if you want a desertic and magical spiritual moment.


All images © Marie Bastide Studio, used with permission. If you’d like to order a print you can contact Marie via Instagram, or on mariebastidestudio@gmail.com. As well as the Gueliz gallery, you will also find a selection of her postcards and photographs on sale at Chabi Chic, La Famille and Max & Jan. 

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One comment

  1. Thank you very much for sharing good and quality content with everyone and for me, nice pictures too, hope you continue to share more in the future.