Shenasnameh: An Interview with Amak Mahmoodian

Amak Mahmoodian’s new book, Shenasnameh will be launched at Photobook Bristol on Friday. Published jointly by IC Visual Labs and RRB Books, Shenasnameh tells the story of Iranian women throught their fingerprints and the identity photographs they must make for their Shenasnameh (a passport like book which is a birth certificate and identity document). It’s a beautifully made book that mixes an attention to the vernacular uses of the identity photography with love, compassion and feeling for her fellow women. It’s a book of personal identities that come through eyes and looks and the turn of the mouth, mixed with official identities of fingerprints and photographs rejected due to an ‘excess’ of make-up or hair.

The project started 6 years ago when Amak was having her Shenasnameh picture taken with her mother.  These are the heartfelt and very beautiful words that Amak says about the project.

Shenasnameh ICVL Studio-RRB Publishing(001 )Shenasnameh ICVL Studio-RRB Publishing(009 )

The idea came to me immediately. I saw the pictures of myself and my mother in the day and I went home and thought, I’m going to make a project about that. The same day I started asking my neighbours if I could borrow their birth certificate photographs.

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How the Speakers at Photobook Bristol are Chosen

picture by Ken Grant from No Pain Whatsoever

Someone asked me how the speakers at Photobook Bristol are chosen? “Do you just look at the best-of lists from the previous year and pick the top 5?” they said, rather mischievously.

Um, not quite, though we Photobook Bristol does pride itself on launching books that go on to be top of the Best of Lists the following year. Last year,  Mariela Sancari launched Moises,  Peter Mitchell launched Something Means Everything to Somebody, and Laura El Tantawy launched The People, a newspaper publication that connects to her In the Shadow of the Pyramids (that launched at IC Visual Labs, Photobook Bristol’s experimental partner, earlier in the year).

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