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Contrast Magazine
Thomas Campbell

Thomas Campbell
Words / Race Skelton

Wind swept coastlines, silhouttes at dusk, gradient wave tones and indigenous Berber portraits. These images spill off the pages of Thomas Campbell’s book, “Seeing Fatima’s Eyes” a photograph heavy and literary interlude through Morocco. On closer inspection you’ll realize Campbell didn’t breeze through the coastline on a puffed-up surf brand sponsored photo shoot, but has spent years there—decades even—and has traveled along with some of the World’s best and most stylish surfers such as Dan Malloy, Alex Knost, Craig Anderson, Dave Rastovich, Lauren Hill, Trevor Gordon and Ryan Burch.

When asked what Moroccans think of surfing, Campbell replied, “I imagine a lot of them think it is just a weird sport for foreigners. There are some good Moroccan surfers, but not exactly in the style of surfing I am interest in capturing. There are probably only a few handfuls of people in the world I really want to point a lens at.”

In these days of photography influx saturation, where photos from the far corners of the Earth are pushed into your peripheral every day, not many photos feel as exotic as they should. Their exoticism has been dulled by the endless advertising, Hollywood blockbusters, travel TV shows, GoPro sensations, fashion lookbooks, etc. Exotic has become the paradigm. “Seeing Fatima’s Eyes” doesn’t strive for that. The photography, all shot on film, by Thomas doesn’t make me want to travel to Northern Africa. It makes me appreciate Northern Africa. The pages turn and the story becomes more and more genuine.

“I think there are the widest range of engagements [with locals], from openness and kindness, to disinterest and contempt and everything in between,” remembers Campbell. “In a lot of circumstances our world could not be further apart, and then in the next one they are close.”

“Seeing…” pushes no agenda, but tells the narrative of Campbell’s love and appreciation for a place (Atlantic Ocean coast) and time (dry winters). If anything, Morocco looks unattainable. Difficult. Hard. Like if you went there, it wouldn’t be like this. There are easier places to travel, prettier sights to see and more relaxing corners of the Earth, but that’s not Thomas.

Campbell is known as one of the “Beautiful Losers,” a bicoastal collective of street-smart artists who gather influence from their connection to youth culture: skateboarding, graffiti, hip-hop, if you know you know, abstract photography, low-brow art… Their school of art houses students Barry McGee, Mark Gonzales, Ed Templeton, Margaret Kilgallen, Chris Johanson, Spike Jonze, Mike Mills and more. Thomas has also created retro, fun-loving, sepia-toned surf films, “The Seedling,” “Sprout” and “The Present.” The photographs found in this feature were originally published in “Seeing Fatima’s Eyes” available at umyeaharts.com.

This feature can be found printed over 16 pages in Contrast 15
For more about Thomas Campbell:
umyeaharts.com
@thomascampbellart