Casablanca is still best in Black & White
Fashion photographer Daniel Holfeld tells our fashion editor how he went to Morocco for work and fell hopelessly in love with the country. Driven to pay homage to its architecture, his striking images go on exhibit next month
For a guy who is obsessed with images, photographer Daniel Holfeld has a gift for speaking in sound-bytes. The Dubliner is all fired up about Morocco and his latest series of images from there, which feature in Art & Style - an exhibition at Brown Thomas, Grafton Street, which features new artists weekly until the end of April.
Daniel and I have journeyed together on countless fashion assignments, working on concepts he devised involving antique trains, white horses and candelabras in the snow, and there's always a passion.
After more than 10 years of working as a fine art and fashion photographer, his new body of work is a break away from the style traditionally associated with Daniel's camera lens. The 11 black and white photographs are, he explains, " the intuitive result of two years of travel to El Bahia Palace in Marrakesh and to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca (pictured left and far right).
Daniel recalls: "The first time I visited Morocco for an international beauty shoot for Vita Liberata tan, I remember vividly how my jaw hit the floor every single day when we went out. It was the first time I had encountered mosques and riads, the beautiful houses or palaces with interior gardens or courtyards. I was stunned by the beauty of the architecture, the engraving, and all the detailed work soaking up sunshine. That really left an impact on me. I grew up in Ireland and my interpretation of architecture was very Roman orientated and Westernised. However, in Morocco I saw something that was outstandingly beautiful, so years later I went back and started doing the work I'm doing now."
So why are the exhibition images solely black and white?
"The reason is, I didn't want the images to look like postcards. I wanted to change it and, for me, the black and white is graphic and punchy. It's elegant and sophisticated and it's also minimalist. In a way, I'm stripping the building down to its core elements of design, and you see up close the way the light hits the building and engravings, it casts a shadow so it defines things so much more," he says.
The photographs are printed on private-label fine art Hahnemühle paper and the fine art print is embedded beneath a layer of UV-protected and scratch-resistant acrylic. Once completed, the acrylic print is sunken within a handmade timber frame, which has been coated with a matt layer of black pigment.
Daniel says his photographic trips have become quite spiritual, "and even as a visiting Westerner, the call for prayer starts at 6am. It goes throughout the day, and it follows you throughout your day, and it's a nice reminder to stop your day and think of something else other than what you are doing."
He loves the sunshine and how it heats everything, and then of course, there is the local culture.
"I'm a big foodie so now a part of the trip that I always look forward to is going to my favourite restaurants and having the best food. I'll always make reservations and go out of my way to eat there because it's a treat. You are there, you are working, you want to enjoy yourself."
Indeed, Daniel became so smitten by the local craftwork, the rugs, the ceramics, the leatherwork, that he began bringing pieces home for his house and as gifts. When people saw them and reacted so enthusiastically, he began importing pieces which he sells at his Dar Sol store in Cabinteely in south Dublin.
"I like to think that my new photographic work offers a seductive peek into Morocco, where style and architecture merge to create the ultimate bohemian lifestyle. I've fallen totally in love with this corner of the world and I've a profound passion for the complex language of the architecture and the scenery."