“Seeing Fatima’s Eyes” is the second volume in the Um Yeah series of surf photography books by Thomas Campbell, and holds a collection of images highlighting his time spent in Morocco over the years since 1991. The book follows “Slide Your Brains Out”, the first in the series published in 2012.
Morocco is not a place one immediately associates with surfing, but Campbell is not your typical surf photographer. Transcending the genre and eschewing the typical action shots seen in surf magazines, his images are more of a personal travel journal, focusing on the details of space and time — the landscape, energy, people, and yes, surfers encountered along the way. Moody, evocative and ethereal, his images have an appeal beyond surfing for those who simply respond to beautiful photography taken with a unique point of view.
Morocco marks the southern terminus of a famed European surf pilgrimage: France in September, Spain in October, Portugal in November, across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, and then finally to Morocco for the winter. Campbell found himself on this trail by coincidence. He told Style of Sport, “It was kind of random how I got there. It was the beginning of long period of travel. I hitchhiked across states, and ended up in New York. I spent about a month there and then got a cheap ticket to Europe to go on a skateboard tour around the United Kingdom and Scotland. From there I went to Spain and camped out at Mundaka (Basque Country) for a month and then down to Portugal. I saw the same people surfing in Portugal as I had in Spain, and quite a few were heading to Morocco from there. I didn’t really know about this migration that happens.”
It was a gallery in Morocco that gave Campbell his first solo show. He decided to return there the following year to create the body of work during wave season. As he describes in an interview in the book, “I rented an apartment-house style place. It was a really rustic spot with three small bedrooms, right in Taghazout just inside of Anchor Point. It was $80/mo. Here – at home – I couldn’t even afford to have my own studio. But in Morocco, I could afford to live and work. It was really an amazing time, I kind of let the amount of swell dictate when I would surf or paint.”
The title, “Seeing Fatima’s Eyes” refers to the dichotomy of how men and women live in Morocco. Describes Campbell, “Generally men are outside and woman are inside which creates a strange world. The women are really covered up. The two parts of the body on the women that you see are their hands and their eyes, and Moroccan women have a long history of decorating their eyes with charcoal and mascara. A lot of times that’s the only thing you can see of them – these really beautiful decorated eyes. It’s almost like a portal into this veiled part of their culture.
The book has 80 images and he had about 400 to choose from. Says Campbell, “The book could have gone many different directions. There were more pictures typical of the paradigm of surf photoraphy, but I cant really compete with that and I don’t want to compete with that. Those people are really good at what they do, but I’ve always looked to other things. I like the idea of more subtle images that aren’t super critical in the surfing.
A painter, photographer and filmmaker, Thomas Campbell is a multi-media artist who is continually working in all three. His current project is an art based 16mm skateboarding film called “Ye Olde Destruction”. His previous films include, “The Seedling” (1999), followed by “Sprout” (2004) and “The Present” (2009).
If you want to see the world through Campbell’s eyes, check his out his Instagram Thomas Campbell Art and Um Yeah Arts. These eclectic streams of imagery, his and others, aren’t always surf or skate related, but feel like part of the culture somehow. Says Campbell, “It’s a platform for exploring and sharing… Seeing what comes and what works next to each other… Being open to the lyricalness of life…