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Jacana

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Cape Town launch: Everyone is Present by Terry Kurgan (22 November)

In this book, Terry Kurgan begins with a family snapshot made by her Polish grandfather in 1939 on the eve of the war.

Presenting this evocative image as a repository of multiple histories – public, private, domestic, familial and generational – she sets off on a series of meditations on photography that give us startling insights into how photographs work: what they conceal, how they mislead, what provocations they contain.

Each essay takes up the thread of the story of her family’s epic journey across Europe as they flee – country by country – Nazi occupation, until they reach Cape Town, South Africa.

But Kurgan takes detours, circles back, diverts attention elsewhere, enriching and also disrupting the narrative with digressions on the way Google has changed our relationship to photography, on her grandfather’s eloquent daily journals, on the shipboard flirtations of her fascinating grandmother, on vanity, on self representation, on loss and return, home and exile.

Kurgan’s richly satisfying essays are part memoir, part travelogue, part analysis and they demonstrate her sophisticated understanding of a medium that has long engaged her as an artist.

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