Andy Stafford
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Dead time
The ‘collectivist’ photobook in the prison work of Mohamed Bourouissa
in The photobook world
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For his project Temps mort [Dead Time] (2007–9, published in 2014), French-Algerian photographer Mohamed Bourouissa works secretly (because it is against the law in France) with his friend ‘Al’ who is in prison and taking photographs of the inside, which he sends to Bourouissa with his text messages alongside. The subsequent photobook version of this project, published by Kamel Mennour in 2014, represents an extraordinary transformation of the original exhibition of the photographs and videos (online and in the Kamel Mennour gallery in Paris). Put together with blank pages, selective quotations from Al’s elliptical text-messages and a highly stylised blurring of the images in the manner of Thomas Ruff, Bourouissa’s photobook Temps mort plays out the ‘dead time’ that being in prison represents. It shows the cryptic requests from Bourouissa to his friend, with the dates in bold, and selects images, instructions, hesitations and thoughts, from the 300 messages sent by Al. The suggestion is not only that Temps mort is a collectivist (rather than a simply collaborative) photo-text; but also, that, as part of a social and political commitment, it explores ways in which prisoners can remain in contact with the outside world, and can be mentally present while temporarily absent. Furthermore, Bourouissa’s (and Al’s?) photobook points to new options for today’s photobook design, in the era of social media and mobile phones.

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The photobook world

Artists’ books and forgotten social objects



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