For the first time in the history of the BUP Book Award contest we had so many discussions regarding the winning project. The shortlist selected by the jurors offered us a number of possibilities. In the end, we decided to award the project which, in our opinion, in the context of the current situation in the world is the best illustration of the position of an individual against the ruthlessness of (ultimately ephemeral) power equipped with all-encompassing manipulation tools and the entire apparatus of exerting pressure in order to achieve its intended purpose. With a great respect to the enormity of the collected material, we proudly announce that the winners of this year's edition of the BUP Book Award are Camilla de Maffei and Christian Elia for the project The Great Father.
The Great Father
by Camilla de Maffei & Christian Elia
From 1945 to 1991, Albania was the biggest prison in Europe. For 45 years, during the regime of Enver Hoxha - one of the fiercest in contemporary European history - thinking freely and expressing one's own opinion in public was irresponsible and dangerous, even to the listeners. Daily life followed the rules imposed by a comprehensive and efficient surveillance system that insinuated itself into every facet of public and private lives.
Every day hundreds of agents monitored the 'ideological correctness' of party members and other citizens alike, spying on them and then classifying each individual based on their most insignificant mannerisms and behaviours.
The collapse of the regime, symbolised by the demolition of Hoxha's statue in Skanderbeg Square on February 20, 1991, confronted Albanians with the freedom they had longed for decades but also left them with a gaping void.
"Europe's youngest country" - so defined by the MEPs present in Tirana during the days of the revolution - was faced with the sudden urgency of stripping its political, economic and social identity of the past's stereotypes to move towards a future full of contradictions, characterised by the problematic relationship with memory (personal and collective) by a traumatic transition process, by migration, by the eruption of consumerism and finally by a vertiginous urban growth.
The Great Father is a project that, focusing on the Albanian case, deepens into the relationship between individuals and power worldwide. The research process started in 2018 offers an immersion into today's Albania to explore the implications and consequences of the rise and fall of a regime.
The narrative corpus aims to highlight the scars that this transition process has left on society, meticulously analysing its architecture and places, identifying gestures and symbols, digging through the rubble of the past and comparing it with that populate the present.
The project consists of photographs taken by Camilla de Maffei and over 80 interviews conducted by Christian Elia. Together, they have travelled through entire Albania to observe as many places as possible. The photographic material constitutes an extensive and complex archive that faithfully reflects the ramifications of their research. The interviews involve Albanians of different ages and profiles: prominent figures of the regime, journalists of the day, former members of the state police, opponents, and political prisoners. But also contemporary intellectuals and politicians, middle-class workers, factory workers and miners, and very young members of the new social movements committed to defending women's and workers' rights. The kaleidoscope of points of view that emerged thanks to this accurate journalistic work was an essential reference for developing visual research and, specifically, for creating the photographic language that characterises the project.
2023 BUP Book Award shortlist
- Evan Allan (US) - Wolf Branch
- Raffaella Arena (IT) - Your Shape Passed Through Here
- Elizabeth Bailey (US) - The House Next Door
- Ciro Battiloro (IT) - The Little Breath
- Sara Bennett (US) - Inside & Out: Portraits of Women Serving Life Sentences
- Martina Cirese (IT) - Silence Is Sexy
- Monica Colmer (IT) - A Song of Mourning and Hope
- Santiago Escobar-Jaramillo (CO) - The Fish Dies by Its Mouth
- Frédérique Félix-Faure (FR) - It No Longer Snows
- Andrea de Franciscis (IT) - Delhirium
- Delhirium Jacques Gautreau (US) - On the Road in Tennessee
- Luca Iovino (IT) - The Name We Hold
- Takako Kido (JP) - Skinship
- Camilla de Maffei & Christian Elia (IT) - The Great Father
- Gael del Río Romero & Luca Bani (ES) - Oddments
- Red Rubber Road (CH) - Garden of Just Enough
- Hyun-min Ryu (KR) - Kim Sae-hyun
- Jari Salo (FI) - Monolith
- Mika Sperling (DE) - I Have Done Nothing Wrong
- Alnis Stakle (LV) - Mellow Apocalypse
- Andrés de Varona (US) - Pillar: No More Mud in Our Eyes
Evan Allan (US) - Wolf Branch
Raffaella Arena (IT) - Your Shape Passed Through Here
Elizabeth Bailey (US) - The House Next Door
Ciro Battiloro (IT) - The Little Breath
Sara Bennett (US) - Inside & Out: Portraits of Women Serving Life Sentences
Martina Cirese (IT) - Silence Is Sexy
Monica Colmer (IT) - A Song of Mourning and Hope
Santiago Escobar-Jaramillo (CO) - The Fish Dies by Its Mouth
Frédérique Félix-Faure (FR) - It No Longer Snows
Andrea de Franciscis (IT) - Delhirium
Jacques Gautreau (US) - On the Road in Tennessee
Luca Iovino (IT) - The Name We Hold
Takako Kido (JP) - Skinship
Camilla de Maffei & Christian Elia (IT) - The Great Father
Gael del Río Romero & Luca Bani (ES) - Oddments
Red Rubber Road (CH) - Garden of Just Enough
Hyun-min Ryu (KR) - Kim Sae-hyun
Jari Salo (FI) - Monolith
Mika Sperling (DE) - I Have Done Nothing Wrong
Alnis Stakle (LV) - Mellow Apocalypse
Andrés de Varona (US) - Pillar: No More Mud in Our Eyes
BUP Book Award is organised by BLOW UP PRESS, publishing house based in Warsaw, Poland, celebrating its 10th anniversary last year.
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