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I shot this image mid-March. It was about a month after I started shooting full time at an ad agency in Portland. We were doing this campaign for the Amazon Kindle. Amazon wanted a collection of images that showed readers all over the world in these amazing locations enjoying a book, so they sent me to Marrakech in northern Africa to shoot some content.

The whole thing was pretty bonkers. I had about 72 hours notice for the trip, which is a 25-30 hour travel day. It was also my first time leaving the country. Not a stamp in my passport and no real clue where I was going. I was also traveling alone, and there was no point of contact when I arrived. And I would only be on the ground for 48 hours, then back to the US to edit the photos for the campaign.

The trip overall was an amazing opportunity for me to learn about myself. Traveling alone, in a foreign country, with no real plans, you get into situations that require a different way of thinking.

There are moments when you are hungry/tired/stressed/confused/nervous/stoked/etc., and it’s just you in an ocean of strangers. No one knows you and you don’t know anyone, so you just have to figure it out.

My flight left Africa in the afternoon and I had arranged a camel tour for that morning. The tour guide was about 40 minutes driving from where I stayed. A van was waiting in front of my hotel to take me. About 15 minutes into the drive out there we started going through all these small neighborhoods. Super narrow streets. Clay buildings. People chilling in plastic chairs drinking tea. I had the window down, just watching and waiting for something to come up.

And then we drove past this dude. I started blasting, held my hand out the window as we drove by. Didn’t really think too much of it at the time. When I got back to the States and started going through the images, I hit this one and just froze. I didn’t realize when I shot it that this man was looking directly into the lens. And all the elements around him. There is story oozing out of this. The colors and shapes. The produce inside. The picture of his son. It feels like artifacts from his entire life are on display. A museum of an individual's life.

It’s a portrait of a man completely in sync with his environment. For me, looking at this image, I feel how I felt when I was there. It takes me back. I smell it, hear it, see it, feel it.

Every time I have traveled since this trip, I have challenged myself to see a frame like this one. A single image, a window, that an outsider can look through and get a strong sense of my vision.

Photographers choose what they see. We put things in the frame that connect with us in some way. Good or bad, there is an unavoidable resonance with certain things. This one just clicks with me.

View more of illgander's work here.

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