Anouck Durand: Eternal Friendship
This exquisitely composed photo-novel by French artist-writer Anouck Durand—collaged from photographic archives, personal letters and propaganda magazines—tells a true story that begins in Albania during World War II, stops in China during the Cold War, and ends in Israel as Communism crumbles.
When the Nazis invaded Albania, young partisan Refik Veseli and his Muslim family hid Jewish photographer Mosha Mandil and his wife, while Mosha’s two small children posed as Refik’s siblings. Despite the dire circumstances, Mosha instilled in Refik a great passion for photography and a friendship was forged in the crucible of war. After liberation, the Mandils left for Israel, inviting Refik to join them, but he stayed behind to contribute to his new nation, not knowing that he would never see his dear friend again.
Artist-writer Durand begins the story decades later in 1970, when Refik, having risen in the ranks as a state photographer, is allowed to travel to China and attempts to mail Mosha a letter, free of the Albanian censors.
In a deft construction of the fictional, personal and historical, Durand imagines Refik’s voice and inhabits private thoughts that seem haunted by the specter of surveillance. With nuance and restraint, she weaves his story of enduring friendship with Mosha into another in which the blunt alteration of history and extraordinary acts of censorship take place on a grand scale, as two ostracized regimes—China and Albania—attempt and ultimately fail to embrace.
In Eternal Friendship, the obscured path is the most revelatory, images that seem to have one message have many, and photography—used at the behest of merciless state powers—becomes a tool for resistance, liberation and human connection.