The shadow panel were instantly and unanimously enthusiastic about Baghdad Calling, in which photojournalist Geert van Kesteren shows us how Iraqi refugees live in Jordan, Syria and Turkey. In addition to his own photos the book also gives us everyday life in Iraq as seen through the eyes of the Iraqi population themselves. A team working with van Kesteren collected hundreds of mobile phone and other digital images of places inaccessible to journalists. Though these photos may not be of the highest technical quality, they are still impressive visual testimony. Here they have been printed on newsprint using a rotary press, so that you can see the gripper marks. The roughness of the paper combined with the pixelated photos makes for powerful images.
Between these pages are the pages of van Kesteren’s photographs and interviews with refugees, printed on ‘ordinary’ photobook paper. Because these pages are narrower you can still see the newsprint, which thereby takes on the function of framing the photos and texts.
The typewriter face used for the interview transcripts works well, while the combination of professional photography with amateur snapshots gives us a different picture of Iraq from the one usually put out by press and television. In amongst some horrific images there are also photos of a graduation party and a picnic in a park.
The cover is a no-nonsense affair. Very good that the makers haven’t gone for dramatic effect by using a photograph.
Silver medal, Best Book Design from all over the World, Leipzig 2009