Publication Details

ISBN 978-3-948212-80-3
Becoming Van Leo
Cased, 3-volume publication
24 x 30 cm
628 pages, 3,000+ visuals
Published by Arab Image Foundation and Archive Books, in partnership with Prince Claus Fund and Sharjah Art Foundation, and with the cooperation of the American University in Cairo, 2021


Van Leo left behind him a 60-year body of portraiture and self-portraiture work, as well as professional and personal documents. Drawing on this abundant archive from the collections of the Arab Image Foundation and the American University in Cairo, in addition to accounts of people who knew him, Becoming Van Leo intricately narrates the story of the photographer and the man; contemplates the complex practice of commemoration; and reflects on the task of the archivist, the curator, the designer and the author at large.

The eclectic nature of the publication’s content will engage diverse audiences not only interested in photographic practices, but also in design and visual arts at large; Egyptian cinema and popular culture; contemporary history of Cairo, Egypt, the Arab world, and the Levantine Armenian community; the Second World War in the Middle East and the numerous subjects that backdrop the narrative.

Prefaced by François Cheval, Becoming Van Leo is composed of 3 books:

Book I: Portraiture
140-page monograph, 450+ photographs

Book II: Self-Portraiture
140-page visual essay, 480+ photographs

Book III: Self
348-page poetic documentary, 1,450+ photographs, 250+ film stills, 300+ documents