My City Series | Suzanne Porter
No one knows a city better than its people. Consciously Connected Travel shares with you our global fam and friends through our My City Series. Unmasking some of the coolest places and it’s people and giving you a deeper more connected insight.
Suzanne Porter began her career as a sociologist, where she learned the workings behind human behaviour and interaction. Once she got into photojournalism, Suzanne found her passion in capturing and bringing these true moments to life. She continued to write for publications including The Independent, Wanderlust, The Guardian, Rough Guides and many more. She has worked with international humanitarian organizations such as WaterAid, CARE, and Médecins Sans Frontières.
Suzanne has spent much time in Marrakech, to capture the unique culture and bring light to a country filled with so much beauty. After becoming a mother to a beautiful daughter, Suzanne relocated to France, and now splits her time between managing her PhotoArt business and running her Photo Experiences in Morocco.
1. Born and Raised or Expat?
Born and raised in UK. Adopted by Africa. Never looked back.
2. How did the idea of Suzanne Porter Photography come about?
The idea came after a number of plane rides from Morocco, sitting next to disgruntled tourists, frustrated at not getting good photos whilst on their holidays in Marrakech, a notoriously difficult place to photograph people. I had developed techniques whilst shooting on deadlines for travel magazines and guidebooks and living in the centre of the ancient medina. A sociologist by definition, my priority was to respect and keep happy the Moroccans I was living amongst, yet still delivering the goods… I wanted to pass my experience on. When the one-day Marrakech Photo Experiences became popular, I started adding on day trips to the Atlas Mountains and the quaint seaside town of Essaouira. I now offer longer experiences of up to 14 days; enough time to head down to the Sahara, or to discover the hidden secrets of the wild Atlantic coast. The idea is always to get off the beaten track and to integrate as much as possible with the locals. To see the behind the scenes workings and experience the real Morocco…
3. What are your fondest memories of SPP when you started your business?
How happily surprised my customers were when they found they could be open about taking photographs and relax and enjoy the moment, striking up conversations and having a laugh. Rather than hiding behind lamppost’s and quickly sneaking a photo, hoping they wouldn’t be caught. By interacting and communicating, it was a fun experience for everyone…
4. On your Day-to-Day routine?
I normally have to leave wherever I am staying before the sun comes up and find my way down the labyrinth of alleyways to where my customers are staying. We’ll have a coffee and talk about equipment and expectations for the day. In Marrakech, we start in the tanneries in the north east of the medina before slowly meandering our way down the backstreets, dropping in to see bakers, weavers, dyers, metalworkers etc along the way. Carpets, spices and Moroccan slippers, then the mint and olive stands and the traditional lamb mechoui, cooked in the underground clay oven... If it’s ready, we may stop there for a bite to eat. It used to make me laugh when I lived in the medina and I’d run out of printer ink or something and on my journey to the stationery shop, I would pass donkeys, monkeys and snake charmers. Not everyone can say that! but it was true. The Jemaa el Fna, is a different world… the acrobats, water sellers and musicians all rally to have their photos taken. Our day doesn’t end until the sun goes down behind the Koutoubia mosque and the muezzin starts the call to prayer. We head to our vantage point on one of the terraces, as the food-stalls light up and the atmospheric smoke makes for some stunning photos. Just time for a quick cup of mint tea, then goodbyes, and home-ward bound to charge up, download and check the days photos…
5. Tell us some of your favourite spots in Morocco?
So many… In Marrakech; Ibrahim’s food-stall, up by the tanneries. He serves the best broadbean soup and tea. I can spend hours here chatting to the locals. In Essaouira, I love hanging with the fishermen after sunrise, when they’ve just come back with the fresh catch of the day. I was offered a job on a prawn trawler, not so long ago… I often buy some fish from them and then take it to the grillades in the fish market. They cook it for you and serve it with bread and Moroccan salad. Delicious! If I’m in Essaouira, then I have to go for a Mojito on the terrace of Taros. It’s where I met my husband and is my tradition when I’m there. It’s a fabulous place to watch the sunset and they always have live music or Dj’s.
6. Where do you go to escape?
The desert…my spiritual home…
7. You can’t take a vacation, so you decide to have a staycation, what do you do, where do you eat, where to do stay and why?
I’d do my Coastal Secrets Photo Experience! I created it to include some of my favourite spots (obviously) , visited and remembered over many years. It includes some of the most beautiful and unspoilt places I know in Morocco..… A perfect mix of people, culture, wild coast and open countryside. Food is very important to me, so we always eat well on the tours. This trip includes visits to a local cheese-maker, a vineyard and we even have lunch with a traditional beekeeper. Apart from that it’s fish, fish and more fresh fish, mostly grilled on bbq’s on the beach. The last two nights we sleep in a yoga retreat. Yoga and photography go well together and with good food, the perfect mix to finish off an already relaxing few days…
8. What local brands do we have to know about?
Check out the concept store 33 Rue Majorelle, Marrakech. Full of lots of cool local designers and brands
9. Where’s your next adventure?
Maybe to Tibet where I’m creating a new Photo Experience, between Lhasa and Mt.Kailash.
10. Does Travel breed creativity?
It does for me. I always have my best ideas in airplanes and never get on a flight without a notebook and pen…
11. The ultimate dancing feet reliefs post liquid courage?
My house… The disco ball goes on every Friday night… If I’m travelling, the disco ball is in my head… With early starts to capture the sunrise, it’s normally relatively early to bed…
12. Where to shed those kilos, detox the body or protect the temple?
There’s a lot of walking on the Photo Experiences which helps keep the kilos down. Though we do tend to eat a lot of yummy treats along the way... The Atlas Mountains are definitely the place to go to breathe fresh air and the desert to clear the mind.
13. Are there any philanthropic programmes or projects that you’re passionate about or would like to shed some light on?
Before moving to Marrakech, I spent 10 years in Africa and beyond, photographing for various international charities and NGO’s . Using photography to bring about change has always been important to me. I try to encourage giving back and suggest my customers bring clothes and stationery, which we distribute to the villagers in the Mountains or desert. A couple of my customers were so moved when we visited a remote mountain village that they asked what they could do to help. They ended up donating a loom to the women of the village, who drew up a rota and took it in turns to make some stunning carpets. I also enjoy taking people to Fiers et Forts, an orphanage just outside Marrakech. It’s such a positive place and so well maintained.
14. Entrepreneurs, Tastemakers and Trailblazers, Where do people like you hangout in your city?
I’m constantly on the move, so you’ll normally find me hanging out in the hotel I’m staying in that night… I LOVE hotels. I’ll empty my suitcase and put my things in the cupboard, even if I’m only staying one night. The equipment gets put on charge and the photos downloaded. Then, if there’s time, I’ll normally find a terrace or similar with a view across the city and treat myself to a little glass of white wine…
15. Give a shout-out to someone in your city that is doing groundbreaking things, and what is it that makes them a trailblazer?
So many people, where to start… Marrakech is full of creative’s, constantly pushing the boundaries and doing great things. I find it exceptionally inspiring. But to pinpoint one of them, is impossible. Go for yourself and spend a bit of time there and you’ll find out…
16. A locals-only, off-the-radar, black book spot?
Hmmm… I’m not sure it’s so off-the-radar now. It’s so good that everyone’s finding out about it… Restaurant +61 in Marrakech…. Where all the locals go to eat well.
17. Whats the next big thing when it comes to Suzanne Porter Photography in Morocco?
Apart from the newly launched, 6 day Coastal Secrets and 10 day Sahara Dust Tours., I’m combining my passions and creating some short 3/4day food and photography tours…
18. Currently working on?
Apart from running the Photo Experiences? New photArt collections, which are finding some exciting new outlets to be sold. I’m also editing a film documentary I shot over six years, in the Sahara desert in Mali, Niger and Algeria, following the rise to fame of the Touareg musicians, Tinariwen. And when I get a minute, I have plans to produce a photography book…
19. Advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Keep going. It’s those that give up that don’t make it. And keep believing. Don’t let anyone break your spirit.
20. We’re living in a world where our attention to new innovation doesn’t seem to have longevity, how do you find your inspiration to make new waves with long-term prosperity?
Inspiration has never been a problem… Thanks to all those plane rides…My problem has always been sticking at a project long enough to get it finished… My aunt, a very successful jewellery designer once told me that all creative’s should have non-creative partners. I think she’s right. I married an engineer and he keeps me on track and helps me see things through…!
21. Your ultimate playlist?
Influenced by my travels.