Nate Connella is a Los Angeles-based video editor and filmmaker. After quitting his job as a commercial film editor, he and his wife left LA to travel the world. They’ve started a travel blog, The Tipsy Gypsies, and are planning their next adventure. We caught up with Nate to talk about the video he made on a recent trip to Morocco.
Were you surprised by any of the Moroccan landscapes?
Morocco has several different types of terrain: we traveled throughout the desert region and did a short camel tour through the dunes. We traveled into the Atlas Mountains, which had some green foliage. We explored the Todgha Gorge area with its steep, red walls. Then we worked our way toward northern Morocco and ended the trip at the Ouzoud waterfalls and lakes, which are an insanely vibrant turquoise — a sight I never would’ve expected to find in Morocco. The countryside was full of beautiful surprises.
What did you learn from photographing the people of Morocco?
Many of the people in Morocco have a certain reservation when it comes to being photographed. There were times when my wife was taking a photo of an architectural detail in the city and someone nearby thought that they were on camera, and they’d be upset.
In general, starting a conversation helps. If we asked to take a photo of someone in the cities, they would either politely say “no” or they’d concede and ask for a tip. One of my favorite shots in the film is of a blacksmith in his workspace: he’s hammering iron and sending fiery sparks scattering. When I asked if I could film him, he gave me a big smile and said “go for it.”
The more we traveled outside the city, the more open people were to being photographed because those in more remote regions are not as bombarded by tourists every day. The shot of the children playing soccer is from a Berber village: they were really excited to see me running around filming in between their games.
Was there a particular moment that you’ll always remember about your time there?
In the opening sequence, there is a close shot of a Berber shepherd. We connected with him while we were in Merzouga with a friend who spoke the local language. He is basically a nomad and lives high in the mountains, and the shot captured his beautiful eyes. Once, he got us up at five in the morning, and we started hiking into the middle of nowhere.
When we made it to his house, we all shared some sage tea with sugar. Our friend was able to help translate for us. We sat with him and his family for an hour and listened to him talk. He was so friendly and welcoming and has probably been living as his people have for thousands of years. It was humbling to be invited into his home as a guest.
What did you learn from being in Morocco?
Today, there are so many great travel blogs, photographs, and beautiful content, but I think sometimes photographers get a little lost in the process. Photographing in Morocco reminded me that these locations are not simply tourist attractions, that it is important to respect that you are entering real places and trying to document real people’s lives.
A shot may look beautiful because it’s exotic in a way to a viewer, but the story behind it can be quite different. Whenever I film, I always make sure to get permission and approval first. I think it’s a traveler’s responsibility — especially if you’re documenting — to remain respectful of the cultural context.