Photobooks of 2016: Laura El-Tantawy
Black Is The Day, Black Is The Night by Amy Elkins
A detail sensitive design of Elkin’s years of correspondence with death row inmates. This is a hard book because of the controversial subject matter and the questions it raises. Can we forgive? Do people deserve a second chance? Is prison about reform or punishment? A complicated issue made accessible through Elkins’ compassion, dedication and multilayered ethereal imagery. It humanizes its subjects by giving them a commanding voice and feels relatable by visualizing their dreams – perhaps lost ones knowing their fate. I found so much humanity journeying through this book.
How We End by Hannah Schneider and Kate Stone
How We End sets itself up as a work of fiction but ends up feeling like fragments of a deja-vu. A stylish large format design teams with first person texts and collage-style imagery to tell tales of an anonymous narrator’s breakups. This book is funny and sad and many things in between. Most of all, it’s special and memorable – like the beautiful beginnings and unfortunate endings that punctuate relationships.
Shenasnameh by Amak Mahmoodian
This is a lyrical, impactful and on occasion, purposely disjointed meditation into a nation’s identity and a testament of its collective history. Designed with sensitivity and executed with consideration for detail, Shenasnameh, is a meditation on the complex and often competing relationship between politics and religion, identity, perception and reflection of the self. It is told from the point of view of the author as a subject, making it authentic and persuasive.
Anaesthesia by Valentina Abenavoli
Anaesthesia is an extremely dark experience. I never thought I would describe a book to be ‘brave’ but I certainly find it appropriate to say so here. There are no bushes to beat around. This book’s gloom slaps you in the face from the get go. Told through video screenshots of news events edited into a visual journey that takes you down a dark alley, this book kicked me so hard in the stomach the first time I saw it. It stayed with me. It’s not a book many will find digestible, but I find it pertinent to confront this darkness in order to maintain a sense of empathy and appreciation of the moments of light.
Astres Noirs by Katrin Koenning and Sarker Protick
The mastery of Astres Noirs is in the harmony of two visionary artists that comfortably mould into one. This is a journey from earth to the moon and some places in between. Ethereal imagery, often psychedelic, makes this book an ideal escape from reality into a world defined by the viewer’s imagination and the mystery navigating that of the two authors’ intention.
(Un)expected by Peter Dekens
There is no turning away from the personal here. The book looks at five people’s coping mechanisms with the grief of suicide. Dekens’ own mother and a friend took their own lives. The design leaves you lost in the landscape of loss. It is not definitive in the way the act that triggered it is. This is a beautifully crafted book on a delicate and emotional subject that is not easy to visualize.
Money by Prill Vieceli
A strikingly designed publication showcasing intense close-ups of currencies from around the world. Money is a playful celebration of bank notes not for the value of what they can buy, but what they celebrate culturally and historically. It is a refreshing reminder that money is a physical reflection of what nations hold high.
Laura El-Tantawy is an Egyptian photographer, self-publisher and low key collector of unique, well thought photo books.
Images – top: Astres Noirs by Katrin Koenning & Sarker Protick, below: Black Is The Day, Black Is The Night by Amy Elkins