In the vibrant tapestry of Morocco’s streets, where colors, textures, and stories converge, a remarkable photography project emerged from an unexpected source. “Africats,” a passionate documentary photography project, unveiled Morocco’s soul through the often-overlooked lives of its resilient stray cats. This visual journey began during a family getaway to Essaouira, Morocco, in September, when the lens of photographer William Josephs Radford found an unanticipated focal point.
Morocco’s streets are akin to a perpetually evolving canvas, inviting artists and adventurers to explore their depths. The cats, with their fluid and unpredictable movements, seamlessly became an integral part of this canvas, accentuating the culture and energy of the place. While the primary focus of the project remained on the stray cats themselves, Radford couldn’t resist incorporating some of the locals into the compositions. It was as if he was painting a portrait of the people through the cats, a testament to the profound bond between the two.
Yet, the project gained a unique and poignant layer due to unforeseen circumstances. On September 8, 2023, just minutes after Radford’s departure, an earthquake struck Marrakech, casting an extraordinary light on his photographs. Some of these images were captured only hours before the event, lending them an unforeseen poignancy. As we look at them now, we see a profound sense of peace and tranquility, juxtaposed with the adage “ignorance is bliss.” The cats, lounging in the sun after a successful day’s hunt, are wholly absorbed in their immediate surroundings and the next meal. They embody a serene ignorance that can offer solace in the face of life’s unpredictable twists and turns.
Moreover, the photographs exude resilience, a theme that resonates both in the people of Morocco as they cope with the aftermath of the tragic earthquake and in the feline subjects of the project. The stray cats, resilient survivors in their own right, symbolize the endurance and grace under pressure that characterize Morocco itself. They serve as living testaments to the resilience and strength that can be found in unexpected corners of the world.
During his sojourn in Morocco, Radford observed a captivating bond between many of the cats and the local communities. These cats didn’t have traditional owners, but they were cared for in various ways, receiving discarded leftovers, unused cuts of meat and fish, and the occasional treat. Locals spoke of these cats as if they were their own, a mutual companionship formed out of the shared experience of life in Morocco.
In the wake of the earthquake, Radford’s experience took an unexpected turn. His plane took off from Marrakech airport just 15 minutes before disaster struck, and it was only the next day that he learned of the tragedy. His time spent with the people and communities of the area made the news of the earthquake even harder to bear. Despite his fortunate escape, a profound sense of sadness enveloped him for those affected.
Now, let’s turn our lens to the artist behind this captivating project. William Josephs Radford, born on August 23, 1998, in the picturesque countryside of rural Andalucía, Spain, experienced a childhood characterized by a unique blend of natural beauty and creative curiosity. His early years were filled with adventures, from stick fights to bonfires, all set against the scenic backdrop of rural Spain.
Radford’s remarkable artistic talent began to emerge early in life. He was often seen with a pencil in hand during his time at the local village school, where his early doodles hinted at the creative journey that lay ahead. This innate artistic curiosity and passion for self-expression would eventually become the driving force behind his career as a fine art photographer.
It was during his formative years in rural Andalucía that Radford’s fascination with photography was ignited. At the tender age of 15, he made a momentous decision to acquire his first camera, setting in motion a series of events that would forever alter the course of his life. From that point forward, his camera became his constant companion, capturing the essence of his surroundings and the people who inhabited them.
Eager to refine his skills and expand his artistic horizons, Radford made a significant decision to pursue formal education in the realm of fine art photography. This marked a pivotal turning point in his artistic journey as he left the tranquil landscapes of Andalucía behind and embarked on a transformative path that would ultimately lead him to the University of Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom.
At the core of Radford’s work lies a distinct and thought-provoking artistic style characterized by striking compositions and subject matters that challenge conventional thought processes. He is an artist unafraid of pushing boundaries, both artistically and intellectually, and his work reflects this fearless exploration.
One of Radford’s signature techniques is light painting, a meticulous craft that involves layered light and long exposures. Through this technique, he skillfully employs color to engage with his subjects and create captivating visual narratives. His mastery of light allows him to craft scenes that are not only aesthetically captivating but also conceptually profound.
Radford’s artistic vision is shaped by a deep and abiding fascination with transgressive art movements. He draws inspiration from artists and creators who have boldly rejected prior definitions of art in their quest for creative expression. Influential figures such as Andres Serrano, Sophie Calle, and Sally Mann have left an indelible mark on his artistic sensibilities and continue to inform the direction of his work.
Looking ahead, Radford’s long-term artistic goals are marked by a commitment to continued growth and exploration. He aspires to challenge conventional thinking and create work that leaves a lasting impact. To achieve this, he plans to experiment with new techniques, embrace innovation, and remain open to learning. Radford’s artistic journey is an ongoing evolution, and he intends to constantly improve and evolve as an artist, pushing the boundaries of his own creativity and inspiring others to do the same.
In the world of contemporary photography, William Josephs Radford stands as a boundary-pusher, a fearless explorer of artistic frontiers, and a thought-provoking artist who challenges societal norms through his work. His art transcends traditional boundaries, evoking emotions, provoking thoughts, and sparking meaningful conversations. With every click of the camera shutter, Radford propels himself and his audience into uncharted territory, redefining the power of artistic expression and leaving an indelible mark on the world of fine art photography.
Returning to the heart of the “Africats” project, Radford’s unique journey as an artist plays a pivotal role in shaping the depth and resonance of his work. His ability to capture the essence of Morocco through the lens of these resilient cats reflects not only his technical prowess but also his profound understanding of the human condition and the intricate relationships that define our world. “Africats” serves as a testament to Radford’s unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of art and sharing the stories of those who are often overlooked.