Photographer Latif Al Ani has become known as the “founding father of Iraqi photography” and a new retrospective book of his work published by Berlin-based publisher Hatje Cantz aims to highlight the importance of his images.
Latif photographed Iraq from the 1950s to the 1970s up until the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980. The country was experiencing “a period of increased cosmopolitanism and openness”, and his black and white photographs provide a record of that time capturing the country’s rich social narrative. Latif photographed the many contrasts in the county, with desert ruins being offset by Western fashions and wealth, brought in by the oil-driven industry that was flourishing at the time.
By the 1980s, Iraq had become more politically volatile with the “increasingly authoritarian atmosphere of the Saddam Hussein regime”, making it difficult, if not impossible, to photograph in public. With the glamour faded and soon after Latif’s historical archive disappearing, following the US invasion in 2003, the photographer lost all interest in making any more photography. As a result this monograph, the first ever of his work, is more significant, as Latif’s images crystallise the “golden age” decades of Iraq like no one else has or will ever be able to do again.
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