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2017 Best Books: Laura El-Tantawy


Books Laura El-Tantawy: 2017 Best Books Laura El-Tantawy Selects This is not because you didn't want to speak with me on your trip, The First March of Gentlemen, and Witness: Kashmir 1986-2016 as the Best Books of 2017
Laura El-Tantawy
Laura El-Tantawy is an Egyptian photographer, writer and experimental film-maker. She was born in Worcestershire, England to Egyptian parents. She attended high school in Saudi Arabia, started university in Cairo, Egypt and completed her degree in the US. She is currently residing in London, UK. Living between East and West for much of her life has been a source of both immense enlightenment and considerable anxiety — contemplating notions of home, identity, culture and ultimately, “the self.” It is through the allure of photography as an artistic medium of limitless boundaries that she chooses to explore these themes. With her characteristically painterly and impressionistic eye on reality, Laura explores social and environmental issues pertaining to her background, working on long-form, personally-initiated projects.

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I found this list daunting to formulate. Not because there is a shortage of books, but because of the weight of the responsibility of narrowing down my selection to three. This has been a year where I particularly made an effort to stay away from photobooks — for the sake of preserving the purity of my vision, protecting my sanity and saving my money. At the end, I opted for books that have touched me. These three books are ones I will keep close for years to come.

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This is not because you didn't want to speak with me on your trip 
By Adrian Øhrn Johansen. Self-published, 2017.
 
This is not because you didn't want to speak with me on your trip
Photographs by Adrian Øhrn Johansen

This is not a book you will find anywhere, not even on the author’s personal website. The title references the last exchange between Johansen and his mother before she was found dead after their last phone conversation. Designed as a softcover wrapped around with pictures of the author’s childhood memories with his mother, the family pictures tenderly fold around as innocent memories protecting a more troubled and tense recent time. Books rarely make me feel this emotional. I found this account honest in every way. Johansen does not intend for the book to be a secret, but it is not one for mass release or sale. He self-published a limited number of copies that he is sharing with family and friends. His main intention is to create a book that honors, celebrates and preserves the memory of his mother. Crafted by Dutch designer SYB, whom I have personally collaborated with on my self-published monographs, this book is my top selection for 2017. It is a treasure and I feel privileged to own a copy.

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This is not because you didn't want to speak with me on your trip By Adrian Øhrn Johansen. Self-published, 2017.

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The First March of Gentlemen By Rafal Milach.
Muzeum Dzieci Wrzesinskich, 2017.
 
The First March of Gentlemen
Photographs by Rafal Milach

A book where past and present politics come face-to-face in a series of architecturally and aesthetically appealing photo collages. It is beautifully designed by the artist duo — Milach and his partner Ania Nałęcka-Milach, punctuated with shades of red symbolically referencing Poland’s history with Communism and creating a sense of depth and tension. A book certain to accrue sentimental, artistic and political value with time.

Selected as a photo-eye Book of the Week

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The First March of Gentlemen By Rafal Milach. Muzeum Dzieci Wrzesinskich, 2017.

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Witness: Kashmir 1986-2016 (9 Photographers) 
By Sanjay Kak. Yaarbal Books, 2017.
Witness:
Kashmir 1986-2016 (9 Photographers)

Text by Sanjay Kak
 
The complicated history of Kashmir unfolds through the experience of nine photographers who grew up influenced by it. This book feels genuine but blunt. An insightful visual narrative thoroughly edited by Kashmiri film-maker Sanjay Kak in a fittingly designed and bound book. I particularly like that everything about this publication is made in India, which rounds the whole book together — metaphorically and symbolically.

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Witness: Kashmir 1986-2016 (9 Photographers) By Sanjay Kak. Yaarbal Books, 2017.

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