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PHOTOBOOK OF THE YEAR SHORTLIST: Imperial Courts 1993–2015

Imperial Courts is a compelling document of lives too often ignored. In 1993, Dutch photographer Dana Lixenberg began photographing the mostly Black and Latino residents of the regally named Imperial Courts housing project, in Watts, Los Angeles, using a four-by-five camera. Over the course of two decades, she continuously returned to the neighborhood, capturing her original subjects as well as their neighbors, siblings, children, and grandchildren. Her black and white portraits, printed in luminous quadratone, gain heart-wrenching power through their sequencing: a little girl first photographed in 1993 is shown next to her daughter at the same age, twenty years later; some people have died, their death dates respectfully noted and their portraits placed next to images of their surviving next of kin. (An index of the photographs, included at the back, serves as a family tree.) Yannick Bouillis compares Lixenberg’s work to David Goldblatt’s apartheid-era photographs of black South Africans, and praises the “gentleness” of the softcover, which features an image screen-printed on black paper — a perfect fit for the empathic photographs inside

Dana Lixenberg, Imperial Courts 1993-2015, Roma publications, 2015.
Dana Lixenberg, Imperial Courts 1993-2015, Roma publications, 2015.
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