Often overshadowed by the Vietnam War, the Algerian War (1954-1962) was a painful period in French history, although little photographic documentation exists of that time. Marc Garanger – then a very reluctant 25 year-old draftee – has left a powerful record with his striking black and white portraits of Berber and Muslim women.
The women had been staying at a military camp, guarded by armed soldiers, in the small village of Ain Terzine. As the official army photographer Garanger was forced by his commanders to take photographs of these women, who were being held in regroupment villages, a euphemism for concentration camps. They were herded up, forced to remove their veil (shameful and against there religious beliefs) and sat on a stool against a white wall so that he could take their photograph.
With their matted hair, dark kohl eyes and tattooed bodies, they seem such powerful women, protesting with the force of their strong stare. With their villages under attack and their world invaded by peoples unknown to them, their stoic faces are powerful, fearless and furious as their only means of defiance.
In 2004 Garanger returned to the village and found many of the women he had photographed. For many, his photographs were the only images they had of themselves.