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Original author: 
Carole Naggar

For France, the trauma of the Algerian War (1954-1962) was not unlike the experience of the Vietnam War for the United States. But, unlike the conflict in Vietnam, few photographic documents exist from that period in Algeria: it is as if the French responded with collective amnesia. Marc Garanger’s Algerian Women is one of the few photographic essays dedicated to that painful period.

In 1960, Garanger, a 25-year-old draftee who had already been photographing professionally for ten years, landed in Kabylia, in the small village of Ain Terzine, about seventy-five miles south of Algiers. Like many politically engaged young men, he had put off his departure for the army as long as possible, hoping that the war would end without him. He was soon selected as his regiment’s photographer.

General Maurice Challes, head of the French army, attacked the mountain villages occupied by two million people, some of whom had joined the Algerian resistance, the FLN. To deprive the rebels of their contacts with the villagers, he decided to destroy the villages and transfer the population into regroupment villages, a euphemism for concentration camps. Soon Garanger’s commanding officer decreed that the villagers must have identity cards: “Naturally he asked the military photographer to make these cards,” Garanger recalls. “Either I refused and went to prison, or I accepted. I understood my luck: it was to be a witness, to make pictures of what I saw that mirrored my opposition to the war. I saw that I could use what I was forced to do, and have the pictures tell the opposite of what the authorities wanted them to tell.”

The women that Garanger portrayed came from neighboring villages. Either Berber or Muslim, they had never before come into contact with Europeans. When Garanger arrived, there was a detachment of armed men with machine guns across their shoulders, an interpreter, and the commander. The women would be lined up, then each in turn would sit on a stool outdoors, in front of the whitewashed wall of a house. Without their veils, their disheveled hair and their protective tattoos were exposed. Their lined faces reflected the harshness of their life. The stiffness of their pose and the intensity of their gaze evoke early daguerreotypes.

“I would come within three feet of them,” Garanger remembers. “They would be unveiled. In a period of ten days, I made two thousand portraits, two hundred a day. The women had no choice in the matter. Their only way of protesting was through their look.”

“It is this immediate look that matters,” Garanger continues. “When one discharges a condenser, a spark comes out: to me, photography involves seizing just that instant of discharge. In these sessions, I felt a completely crazy emotion. It was an overwhelming experience, with lightning in each image. I held up for the world a mirror, which reflected this lightning look that the women cast at me.”

In the Middle East, the veil is like a second skin among traditional people. It may be taken off only within the secrecy of the walls, among women or between husband and wife, but never publicly. Garanger’s portraits symbolize the collision of two civilizations, Islamic and Western, and serve as an apt metaphor for colonization. The women’s defiant look may be thought of as an ‘evil eye’ that they cast to protect themselves and curse their enemies.

Fifty years after Algeria’s independence was proclaimed, Garanger’s contested portraits have not lost their strength. When he went back to Algeria in 2004 to meet those he had photographed, he found that the pictures he had taken were often the only ones that the women ever had of themselves, and they welcomed his return: he had become the keeper of their memory. This month, his portraits will be exhibited in Algiers.

Garanger’s portraits are currently being exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Algiers (April 20 – August 30).

Carole Naggar is a photo historian and poet. She recently wrote for LightBox on Chim’s images of children in Europe after World War II and the visual fables of Pentti Sammallahti.

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Reuters recently assigned a number of photographers to capture images of a struggling generation. The result is this series of portraits of graduates from around the world who have been unable to find work in their degree fields and have ended up in poorly paid service industry jobs. Although their current positions may be disappointing, the subjects in these photos may count themselves lucky to have any job at all -- the International Labor Organization estimates the number of people aged 15 to 24 without a job at almost 75 million. From a cook in Athens with a degree in civil engineering to a waiter in Algiers with a masters in corporate finance, these young people have spent years studying hard to compete in the 21st century, only to discover that even the most desirable qualifications mean little in a distressed global economy. [17 photos]

Marcin Lubowicki, a 28-year-old deputy manager of a McDonald's restaurant, with his university diploma in front of the fast food chain in the Arkadia shopping mall in Warsaw, Poland, on May 16, 2012. Lubowicki, who has degree in Russian language from Warsaw University, has been working for McDonald's since 2007. He is now planning to stay in his job. (Reuters/Peter Andrews)

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Born in Algiers in 1968, Zohra was recruited as a stringer photographer for Reuters by Mallory Langsdon in 1997 during the last years of the conflict in Algeria. In 2000, Zohra was sent on her first assignment abroad for Reuters to Macedonia where ethnic Albanians were taking refuge from Serbian forces. In 2003 she went to Iraq while Saddam was still on the run. In Najaf, Iraq, in 2004 Zohra was made staff photographer from Reuters.

Zohra won the European Union prize for the best African press photographer in 2005. Still based in Algiers she continues to cover some African and Middle East countries. Last year she documented Sudan’s referendum, Tunisia’s uprising and Libya’s revolution. In the following showcase, Zohra recounts her experience as an Arab woman photographer.


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By Ivo Gabrowitsch & Christoph Koeberlin

After more than 10 years, Verena Gerlach has revised and extended her FF Karbid super family, an interpretation of German storefront lettering from the early 1900s. The new FF Karbid is a harmonized redesign of the original typeface. Rounder and less narrow letters lend the shapes more space and balance. Although the contrast was reduced to obtain a harmonious monolinear typeface (without losing its liveliness) it was increased in the bolder weights to improve legibility and achieve a certain elegance. FF Karbid Display is the most obvious spin-off of the original family. More than merely having been assimilated, the letterforms were revised according to a new concept.

From top to bottom: FF Karbid Text, FF Karbid Display, FF Karbid Slab, FF Karbid.

The FF Karbid family has been augmented with two entirely new sub-families. The first one, the Text version, is intended for body copy in small sizes. The eccentric, serif-like swashes in select letters have been abandoned, while the friendly, lively forms of l, y, z and Z show the close relationship to the FF Karbid family. The other new sub-family is a Slab version. It has a sober, journalistic character, inspired by the typography in magazines of the 1920s (see Memphis, etc.). The strong serifs lend the typeface footing and an air of reliability. To improve legibility and balance the contrast was increased in comparison to the sans serif version. FontFont’s Christoph Koeberlin and Ivo Gabrowitsch recently had the opportunity to talk with Verena Gerlach about her diverse super family.

1. Verena, please tell us a bit about your professional background.

I studied Communication Design at Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee from 1993 to 1998 with a focus on typography. Right after my graduation in 1998, I started to work as a freelancer, mainly in graphic design for cultural organizations.

Since then I have been busy in classic graphic design as well as type design, art direction for pop music videos, advertising and exhibition design. At the moment I am focusing on book design.

Since 2003 I have been teaching typography, design and type design in Germany as well as abroad; for example, in Algeria, Jordan, Sweden, and USA. Additionally, I have been giving lectures in several other countries.

Verena Gerlach.

2. Was the step of designing your own typefaces foreseeable due to your work as a graphic designer specializing in book design?

I did both simultaneously. Actually, I started with type design and later got involved in book design. Now, I find it extremely important for my work that I am doing both. When designing books I can do a better job of choosing the right typefaces and make better use of the chosen typefaces. Conversely, when designing typefaces I have a better understanding of type as text and as a part of an overall design.

3. What do you like the most about the type design process?

I like to have a finger in every pie, from drawing the single letters to programming the font. I most like the first drawings, which I do rather quickly; but I also enjoy the zen-like fine tuning of all the curves. I’m very happy when other designers use my typefaces and when beautiful things are designed with them.

FF Karbid has grown from 2 families with 5 styles to 4 families with 40 styles.

4. On the other hand, what’s the biggest challenge in this regard?

The clear decisions you have to make. There is only form and counter-form, that as single characters and combinations must add up to a balanced overall picture. There is only yes or no — no maybe. You are moving within very narrow borders and you must achieve the best possible result. There are also those moments when you change a form, spacing or kerning, and then the whole system no longer works and again you must change something, and so on. Finding the exact moment when you consider the font complete is very difficult because you are never really content.

5. How do you go through the process of a new type design? Are there any certain steps that you follow during the process?

My fonts are always conceived from scribbles on paper. I always start with a hand-drawn sketch, followed by drawing in a font program.

6. We know that FF Karbid was inspired by German storefront lettering from the 1930s. What made you so interested in this theme that you chose it as the inspiration for your digital typeface?

I’m in the lucky situation to have witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, and the happiness of the following years. To preserve the impressions and the excitement of this time in this city with its story, I collected a lot of visual material. Between 1991 and 1998, I documented the old shop lettering that was painted directly onto the façades in the former East Berlin – mostly in Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte. This lettering had not just survived WW II, but the more than 45 subsequent years of the post-war period. The reason why these traces from the early twentieth century could survive was the poor economy of the GDR. The whole political system was living on the leftovers of the ‘glory days’. I was fascinated when I got access to these massive resources of the suffering originals.  Because the old structures in the East were in very bad condition, the city started with the widely planned reconstruction of most of the façades, as soon as their ownership was discovered. The only way not to lose all of this beautiful lettering and the stories behind them was to record them in photographs and try to find a way of showing them later on in another context. Therefore, I took pictures of the lettering, ‘portraits’ of individual characters, and even the spaces in between. I call this method ‘search, find, and rescue’:

Berlin façades now and then:
Most of the lettering has gone.

To show how the old shop lettering was disappearing over the past 15 years, in 2005 I returned to the same places where I’d taken so many photographs. I took new pictures, trying to get to exactly the same position, and keeping the same angles as the first shots. This was not easy, partly because so many cars are parked on the streets these days, compared to the relatively car-free days of the GDR. The thing I found out is that more than 98% of the old lettering has vanished forever. Just a handful of building owners cared about these old traces and conserved the originals on the façades by painting the new color around them.

To transfer the characters into a new mission, I examined the distinctive appearances of individual letters and tried to find out about their origins in old type specimen books. Old techniques for printmaking and reproduction and contemporary innovations, together with the everyday life in the early twentieth century are all very well reflected in the shapes of the letters. In the FF Karbid family the results of this research process come together in a new typeface, to be used in a new time and new media. In this way, the old lettering can live again.

The shapes of FF Karbid Display stick quite closely to the found originals, while FF Karbid Text shows its historical background less obviously. The typeface has been trimmed down to the bare essentials of a text face, which makes it eminently readable, especially at small point sizes. Despite this back-to-basics reduction, FF Karbid Text is a font that captivates through its sheer liveliness. The sweeps that replace the serifs and link the characters create a flowing movement.

Here are some examples for the process behind FF Karbid Display’s design:

At the turn of the last century it was very popular to design typefaces whose lowercase ‘a’ sits with its full weight on the baseline. This is a kind of reference to the organic shapes used in Art Nouveau.

Due to technical limitations of the time and the German standard baseline specification of 1905, foundries started to truncate the descenders of roman faces so that they could be combined with blackletter faces in the same line. While it was easy to amputate the descenders of letters like ‘p’ and ‘q’, the ‘g’ provided a much harder challenge for the type designer to play with its short tail. The strangest shapes suddenly appeared in the ‘modern’ typefaces, whose unique look was applied to façade lettering as well, although there was technically no need for this.

Some of FF Karbid Display’s letters directly link to storefront lettering.

A reflection of the speed of modern times in a busy city like Berlin are the rally stripes of A, E, F and H. The shapes of these characters are taken directly from the found lettering.

One very important graphic and type designer of this time was Lucian Bernhard (1883–1972), who created the typefaces, Extrafette Bernhard Kursiv and Bernhard Antiqua. The sweeps of ‘n’ and ‘m’ in FF Karbid are taken from Bernhard Antiqua, as if it has been enlarged by a photocopier. These shapes replace the serifs and link the characters to create a flowing movement.

FF Karbid’s terminals and serifs are irregular: as if they have fallen off, as actually happened to the originals when the plaster fell off the old façades in the East.

7. Why did you decide to redesign FF Karbid after all these years?

I acquired more knowledge in all the years since designing the original FF Karbid, by designing typefaces and using them in book design. I found the forms of the old FF Karbid rather unsuitable for body text, and there are some other things that I have a different view on now. An Italic/Oblique was missing, and I thought a matching Text and Slab version would be great. The weights were not balanced and a Light was missing. You could say that the new FF Karbid Pro is like Berlin: it evolved during this time; it has grown up and has become serious despite all the party hype. Many different people have moved to Berlin and perhaps FF Karbid Pro is the gentrified version of the old FF Karbid.

8. Where does the name ‘Karbid’ come from?

The working title was Kabinett as a reference to the curiosity cabinets of the turn of the century. I eventually found this name too kitschy and thought it should be based on the lettering found on the facades of the workshops and stores of that time in the neighborhoods around Hackesche Höfe and Pappelallee. The numerous signposts of coal stores (Kohlehandlungen) supplied me with a nice collection of ‘Ko’ lettering, but also the idea for the name of the typeface, Karbid, the German word for Carbide, a carbon compound. Carbide is not only the main ingredient of the extremely bright carbide lamps (used for cinema projectors at the time) but also highly explosive which I found very appropriate.

9. What are the special features of FF Karbid? Why should a designer use it in his/her work?

The features consist mainly of alternate characters – by using them you can strikingly change the appearance of the typeface. These alternate letters have forms reminiscent of the Art Déco without being obtrusive: the higher or lower waists of the capitals in SS01 and SS02, or the almost circular forms of C, E, G and O. There is also a non-diagonal, rounded upwards A in SS03. And the several styles of the fonts enable ambitious graphic design with many different text hierarchies. For example, the new FF Karbid Text Pro is a softer version of the FF Karbid Pro without those serif-like terminals to enable discreet but lively body copy. In this sober version the references to the store lettering are just visible as a little friendly salute.

Low-waist alternates of Stylistic Set 1 and high-waist alternates of Stylistic Set 2 (SS02), contained in FF Karbid, FF Karbid Text and FF Karbid Slab.

The Slab is a stronger, louder variant which combines perfectly with the other more prosaic styles.

10. Could the family unfold its glory only through the OpenType format?

I could have made separate fonts from all those features, but this would be redundant and confusing in these OpenType times. By clicking on the features you can play with the font and choose the most suitable features. You will need a bit of intuition but that’s something every designer loves to be challenged by, right?

Many hidden gems to be found in FF Karbid’s Stylistic Sets: Single-storey a and g in Set 5, alternative ampersand in Set 7, rounded A in Set 3 and circular letters in Set 4.

11. With FF Karbid Slab you added to the superfamily a completely new variant. What inspired you for this?

I always liked Memphis which was suitable only to a limited extent for body copy. When used with justification, for example, you get bad gaps in shorter lines. So, I looked for a narrower Egyptienne and then I had the idea to just apply square-edged serifs to FF Karbid and to raise the contrast. Thanks to the new font program, Glyphs by Georg Seifert, this was done quickly.

What I transferred from the original Memphis is the upright-standing rounded upwards ‘A’ which I then also used for the other weights, and which was already part of the FF Karbid Display variant. I had taken it from lettering in a Bauhaus version, but the idea for this form, for a Text capital ‘A’, came from Memphis.

FF Karbid Slab used in ‘The Murder of Crows’ (Hatje Cantz, 2011).

12. How does a historically influenced super-family like FF Karbid make sense in the new webfont environment?

I find it appropriate to transfer the lettering onto the web. The point with webfonts is that they must be well hinted and readable on screen. Of course, it’s up to the designer to select the right font for the right purpose and use it accordingly (size, colour, contrast, space, etc.). It’s a bonus if all the beautiful lost letterforms of the reconstructed façades in Berlin can live on on the web.

13. Compared to the other variants, FF Karbid Text differs from FF Karbid only slightly. Why did you decide for such a separate family instead of a stylistic set extension?

I see the problem in marketing the stylistic sets. This version is very different from the normal FF Karbid Pro but you can just see it in text. The individual letters are partly the same, but the new FF Karbid Text Pro is a softer version of FF Karbid Pro without those serif-like terminals to enable discreet but lively body copy. In this sober version the references to the store lettering are just visible.

14. Since FF City Street Type, that you designed together with Ole Schäfer, as well as your typefaces Tephe and PTL Trafo are all based on type that you’ve explored in Berlin, would you see yourself as the prototype of a Berlin graphic designer? How does the city influence your work in general?

I see myself as a designer who observes her environment and finds inspiration in it. I can’t go through life without handling what I see in my graphic work. As I’ve lived in Berlin for many years, my inspiration is Berlin. And given the history of this place during the last 100 years it was so special that it has left many traces throughout the city. I had the same feeling in Algiers which is also a rich source for inspiration, as well as Damascus, and even Monaco. I would see myself rather as a prototype of a designer inspired by any environment.

15. Do you have plans for a new type design in the near future?

Yes, I have. But first I’d like to design using my typefaces. Some time, in the not too distant future, I will surely again design and publish a new typeface.

Links: FF Karbid | FontFont | @FontFont

Sponsored by H&FJ.

An Interview with Verena Gerlach

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FARMING FILM: Farm worker Dariusz Rekowski covered asparagus fields with protective plastic film in Beelitz, Germany, Wednesday. (Markus Schreiber/Associated Press)

BLOODY FACE: Police carried away an injured colleague after a clash with protesters Wednesday in the Oued Koriche suburb of Algiers, Algeria. Residents protested against a plan to demolish houses built without proper approval. (Louafi Larbi/Reuters)

UNCERTAIN MARKET: A trader worked at the Egyptian Stock Exchange in Cairo Wednesday. Egypt’s stock market plummeted almost 9% on its first day of trading in nearly two months, with foreign investors leading a selloff that offered a window into concerns about the country’s stability. (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Reuters)

PEACE: Soldiers took a break after receiving flowers from demonstrators demanding the resignation of Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh in San’a, Yemen, Wednesday. Parliament passed a law that suspends the constitution and enables his security forces to arrest opponents. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)

STILL SUFFERING: A man looked through a window in a hospital for leukemia patients in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday. Patients, some of them victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant accident, undergo medical treatment at the hospital. (Alexander Khudoteply/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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An auxiliary police officer waved a prosthetic leg during a protest near the Parliament in Algiers Monday. Workers were demanding a pay raise. (Farouk Batiche/AFP/Getty Images)

Employees of the government of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir scuffled with police during a protest calling over employment benefits. (Jaipal Singh/European Pressphoto Agency)

Dancers from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school performed during a Carnival parade at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, early Monday. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)

Yemeni protesters threw a boy into the air during demonstrations against the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in San’a Monday. After days of delay, he officially rejected a proposal that he step down this year and reiterated that he would remain in power until his term ends in 2013. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

A boat full of would-be immigrants made its way to the Italian island of Lampedusa early Monday morning. A total of 155 immigrants landed on the island Monday morning, and customs police patrolling the Strait of Sicily by air sighted eight other boats on their way, as migrant workers flee the recent violence in Libya. (Roberto Salomone/AFP/Getty Images)

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