Dirk Alvermann: Algeria

A classic documentation of mid-20th century Algeria is rebound, as originally intended

More than 50 years after it was originally published, Dirk Alvermann’s photographic account ‘Algeria’ has been revived and rebound as part of a series called ‘The Protest Box’, recently launched by Göttingen publishing house Steidl.

Born in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1937, Alvermann was 18 when he packed his bags and travelled to Algeria. During the mid-1950s, the photographer bore witness to the ongoing social upheaval in the North African country. With his camera in tow, Alvermann was one of the few to capture the historical protests and battles of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962).

Edited by Martin Parr and rekindled by Gerhard Steidl of Steidl, the latest edition of ‘Algeria’ is produced in the ‘rororo’ format, as Alvermann had originally hoped for. Dating back to the early 1900s, rororo books were printed on cheap cuts of newspaper and sold at low prices throughout Germany so as to make intellectual works more accessible to the masses. Alvermann had hoped his photos would be made more available to the public by following the rororo method; however, they were first printed by East Berlin publishing house Rütten & Loening in 1960 as a standard hardcover.

When publisher Steidl first visited Alvermann in his studio decades after the photographs were first taken, he didn’t know the full story behind the publication. Though, he would come to work closely with Alvermann to replicate his original vision down to every last detail before Alvermann passed away in 2013.

The latest edition includes unearthed quotes from pamphlets and newspaper clippings, as well as other historical documents from French military sources at the time. The 162 candid photos are grainy, black and white, and laid out in a cinematic tableau – a fitting memorial to Algeria’s contemporary history.

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