by Amak Mahmoodian

‘Six years ago, I was sitting in a reception room, next to my mother, holding our Shenasnamehs. My eyes began to flick from the picture of my mother to the picture of myself, and back again. What these pictures meant, of what they showed and what they didn’t show. My mother and I, for all our differences, were welded into one being in our photographs’.


a story of identity

I am Iranian. I was born in 1980. I learned how to wear my  scarf when I was seven years old. I still remember putting it on for the first time, getting ready for my first day at school. It was me, my mother and a mirror. Two years later my Religious teacher stopped me in the corridor for letting my hair show. She told me to cover my hair completely.  She said “When you die, Amak, you will go to hell and you will be hanged with your hair strand over a very big fire for all eternity because you didn’t hide it from the eyes of strangers in your lifetime”

Six years ago, I was waiting in a reception room, holding the birth certificates of my mother and me. We looked similar in our ID photographs. That same day my fingerprint was fixed next to my image, and my mother’s fingerprint next to her image. Despite the outward similarity of the images the fingerprints were different; the scar I had on my finger became part of my identity next to my photograph. I decided this meant something, that our identities were entwined with these official identities, with these prints and these papers. In the following three years, I collected similar images and fingerprints from different women in Iran. Each was different from the other, and had a story to tell.

Read an interview with Amak Mahmoodian.


postscript,francis atterbury

From the first time we were approached about making this book we believed in the concept and the project. This story is real; a book is real. It is acknowledged as the most effective way to contain and transmit information and, by buying and owning a book, people treasure its contents more. A book is trusted.

I wanted to keep to the vision of the original hand-made mock up. The book had to be the same size and be covered in similar red material to the Iranian national identity document. The corners were to be rounded and one page had to be torn in half by hand. These elements of the project were worked on by our friends at Ludlow Bookbinders – they have just the right balance between careful and exquisite hand binding and mechanisation. The text pages are of course Mohawk Superfine Eggshell 118gsm paper and the book was printed by Pureprint on their Indigo 10000 presses. The page layout was by Alejandro Acin and image reproduction by us in-house at Hurtwood.

This book is great and, at the same time, wonderfully ordinary. In my opinion, a book is a success only when seen as an entity. Our job is to make a book convey its message; not to show off how clever we are.  It’s a failure if all you ‘see’ is the design or the reproduction of the images. I think this book is a success; it also happens to have some careful and complex image reproduction!

Watch this short video from ICVL Studio showing some of the craft processes in the production of this book.

Shenasnameh is co-published by ICVL Studio + RRB Publishing as limited edition and standard versions. There are only five of the limited editions left before the price goes up, find out more here


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