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Book review: A Box of Photographs tells the stories behind the pictures

Roger Grenier's collection of personal anecdotes about the people who share his passion for the camera and photography.

A Box of Photographs
Roger Grenier
University of Chicago Press

The French novelist and critic Roger Grenier celebrates the role photography has played in his life in a series of highly readable vignettes that encompass personal anecdotes as well as the history and cultural impact of the camera.

The personal vignettes, particularly his wartime experiences, are very interesting, but it is the anecdotes about other people that really make this book a pleasure. One is about the American photographer Lisette Model's insistence on locking up her photographs at night so that the souls of the people in them wouldn't be able to come out and haunt her.

Heroes of photography populating the pages include the legendary American crime-scene snapper Weegee and Alfred Eisenstaedt, who famously photographed Hitler publicly shaking hands with Mussolini for the first time.

Grenier, who wrote The Difficulty of Being a Dog and has worked extensively as a photojournalist and reporter, clearly wrote this book for people who share his passion for the camera, but his recollections of life during and after the war and his interactions with many of the famous people of the time make it broadly appealing.

pmuir@thenational.ae

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