The archaeologist Luis Monreal, now General Manager of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva, has behind him a distinguished career in culture administration, but will most be remembered as a photographer. His latest book, which pays homage to Henri Cartier-Bresson, has him capturing ‘the decisive moment’ in Mali, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, or Malaysia, geographies in many cases off limits and people inhabiting worlds in transit portrayed with as much fascination for their beauty as respect for their dignity. Architectures and persons take center stage in his tasbih, using the term for the Muslim rosary of 99 beads. The guide for psalmodic prayer is associated with a swift journey, and serves here to thread a sequence of extraordinary images, from the adobe mosques of the Inner Niger Delta to the stone stepwells of Rajasthan and Gujarat, and from the wounds of war in Kabul or Aleppo to the vital ethnic mix of Penang Island.
Monreal’s previous book (Ummah, imágenes de un islam plural, which AV Proyectos featured with 18 of its photos) took us through many of those landscapes, but since its 2006 release, that world has been changed by motorcycles, plastics, or advertising, and the new book does not conceal this new hybrid reality, stubbornly captured through traditional photography, “the method invented by Daguerre and the device conceived by Oskar Barnack almost a hundred years ago,” the Leica without which we cannot imagine this traveler of historical sensibility, human empathy, and sharp vision.