Reaching for Dawn (Signed)

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Dunes Editions, 2021. Edition of 750 copies.
Hardcover Swiss binding, 152 pp., 36 b/w and 30 color illustrations, 240 x 310 mm. Photographs by Elliot Verdier. Text by Gael Faye, Leymah Gbowee (English, French). Design by Marion Denoual.

Shortlisted for the 2021 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation First Photobook of the Year Award

Book of the Year, HiP Photography Book Awards 2021

Of the bloody civil war (1989-2003) that decimated Liberia, its population does not speak. No proper memorial has been built, no day is dedicated to commemoration. The country, still held by several protagonists of the carnage, refuses to condemn its perpetrators. This deafening silence, that resonates internationally, denies any possibility of social recognition or collective memory of the massacres, condemning Liberia to an endless feeling of abandonment and drowsy resignation. The trauma carved into the population’s flesh is crystallized in the society’s weak foundations, still imbued with an unsound Americanism, and bleeds onto a new generation with an uncertain future.

Elliott Verdier’s photographic and sound work was spread over a two year period. The images were made over the entire country, from the diamond mines of Gbarpolu to the fishing harbors of Harper and through the immense slum of Westpoint. The analog photographs, made with a large format camera, offer two interweaved narratives, one in black & white and the other in color. In parallel to the photographs, recordings of men and women’s voices are added, be they victims or perpetrators, to recount their damaged fate.

The dark and enigmatic monochromes are contextual images that establish the setting for the color portraits. These black & white images are a reference to the night that so often appears  in witness accounts, a moment in time where the trauma becomes palpable. They distill a heavy atmosphere that spreads the suffocating silence over the country. From this silence, words emerge, transcribed onto fragile paper, to haunt the Liberian night with inaudible whispers.


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