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Photos Capture Morocco Scenes
Photographs by Derek Bennett

Review by R. M. Campbell
Tacoma News Tribune
June 1974

Photography has taken off on widely diverse paths in recent years, some of them rather tiresomely mechanistic and trendy. So it is a real pleasure to see the exhibit of about 35 photographs of Derek Bennett at the Silver Image Gallery, 727 Commerce St. His feet are on the ground buy his imagination and talent are far above it.

The American-Born photographer who now lives in Switzerland spent four months in 1972 photographing a Moroccan village. In a statement posted on the gallery wall, Bennett says the photographs are not meant to be a general commentary on Moroccan life but that this unnamed village could be any village.

Parenthetically, the gallery has gone "all out" for this show, importing two truckloads of sand for the floor - it will be returned - and purchasing records of Moroccan music, an eclectic combination of African rhythms and Middle Eastern harmonies.

What is so immensely appealing about the photography of Bennett, who is in his early 30s, is in their broad humanistic approach - like Henri Cartier-Bresson to who Bennett has been compared. There is no artiness - in the worst sense of the work - here nor romaticization or idealization of subject matter. These are stark portraits of village life remote from the amenities of Western civilization.

Working in black and white, Bennett plays the contrasting shades off one another. Shadows fall across shadows with as much foreboding as in a Chirico painting. The harshness of the arid landscape - one wonders how life is supported, the land looks so barren - is used against the softness and roundness of the brown skin. The ware, flowing curves of the robes vibrate against the unrelenting light and cold, unfriendly streets. In this world where men are old at 45 Bennett tells us in rather explicit terms that escape is nearly impossible physically or psychologically.

These photographs are strong statements. Bennett has an unerring sense of composition. Through the eyes of Bennett's camera this village is intriguing, certainly, but not particularly inviting. Bennett does not patronize these people but offers quiet sympathy and respect. He gives his villagers dignity and a sort of rough nobility.

The photographs need not title for they speak with a clarion voice whether it be an impending fight, waiting for the bus, men clustered off the street chatting (as expected there are few women in the exhibit - provincial Arabic women do not take kindly to the curious eye of the camera), or a family posing for a picture.

It is a superb exhibit and a credit to Dan Fear, gallery owner, who discovered Bennett while in Europe. The show is his first in this country. It runs through June 22 and can be seen from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesdays.

First American showing "A Moroccan Village" by Swiss photographer
Derek Bennett
June 4 - June 22, 1974

The Silver Image Gallery
727 Commerce Street
Tacoma, Washington

Copyright 2009 by Dan Fear and Art-Support.
All Rights Reserved.

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