New York Times Best Photo Books 2017: Teju Cole picks Eternal Friendship

Reviews

January 21st, 2018

(Review) Anouck Durand: Eternal Friendship

New York Times

Best Photobooks 2017
by TEJU COLE

Originally published December 31, 2017

 

There are great photo books every year, and 2017 was no exception. But something about the strained times intensified my feelings about the work I saw this year. The role of art felt more urgent, both as a response to the general political disorder and as a refuge from it. I didn’t merely like or appreciate the best work I saw; I needed it. The photo books that made my list range from large scholarly catalogs to poetic little volumes. They were published in seven different countries. Some were more conceptual in approach, while others were freer and more visceral. These winners all had in common the special qualities of great photo books: the pleasure of turning pages, the precision of thoughtful book design, the tactility of paper and the glow of the afterimages in the mind long after the book is set down.

Anouck Durand’s photo-novel (or is it a photo-memoir?) is bewildering, peculiar and smart, a matryoshka doll of a story. Durand, a Frenchwoman, recounts the story of Refik Veseli, a young Albanian-Muslim photographer. Veseli sheltered the Albanian Jewish photographer Mosha Mandil and his family after the Nazis invaded Albania; decades later, after rising in the ranks of the Albanian propaganda establishment, he tried to elude the censors and make contact with Mandil, who had immigrated to Israel. It all happens against the backdrop of Albania’s doomed friendship with China. Durand’s narratives nest inside each other in dizzying fashion, and all the absurdity of state control under communism during the Cold War is conveyed with images from personal and public Albanian and Chinese archives. A brilliant rerouting of photography that reminds me of those strange documentaries by Werner Herzog, say, or Chris Marker.

Read the entire review here.