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Best Photo Books of 2020

Posted on December 10, 2020 - By Sandrine Hermand-Grisel
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Best Photo Books of 2020
Best Photo Books of 2020
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to cause major disruptions to our daily lives and forces us to isolate in our homes, virtual exhibitions, movies and documentaries as well as books have played in an important part in our continued willingness to stay connected to the art world. Publishers and worldwide photographers have risen to the challenge and continued creating amazing books for us to discover during these unprecedented times.

Unfortunately we were not able to discover them all as there are so many, but we have chosen a few photo books that, in our opinion, should be in your library! It is of course a very subjective choice and if we could, we would have chosen at least 50 of them.

We hope this collection will help you draft your 'wish list' or find the perfect gift for someone who enjoys photography.

Despite the challenging circumstances we are all facing, we wish you Happy Holidays. But please stay safe!


Chris Killip


Chris Killip

The Station, 1985. © Chris Killip, 2020


The Station by Chris Killip
Published by Steidl
Late in 2016, British photographer Chris Killip's (born 1946) son discovered a box of contact sheets of the photos his father had made at the Station, an anarcho-punk music venue in Gateshead, Northern England, open from 1981 to 1985. These images of raw youth caught in the heat of celebration had lain dormant for 30 years; they now return to life in this book.

The Station was not merely a music and rehearsal space, but a crucible for the self-expression of the subcultures and punk politics of the time. As Killip recollects: When I first went to the Station in April 1985, I was amazed by the energy and feel of the place. It was totally different, run for and by the people who went there ... nobody ever asked me where I was from or even who I was. A 39-year-old with cropped white hair, always wearing a suit, with pockets stitched inside the jacket to hold my slides.
Purchase a copy


David Goldblatt

The Last Interview by David Goldblatt
Published by Steidl
Accompanied by a selection of some of David Goldblatt's (1930–2018) lesser-known photographs, this distilled dialogue is drawn directly from the recordings of a roving conversation with the photographer conducted three months before his death in June 2018. Goldblatt was born in Randfontein―a mining town on the Witwatersrand gold reef―in 1930, the grandson of Lithuanian-Jewish migrants who settled in South Africa after escaping persecution in Europe. After the death of his father in 1962, Goldblatt sold the family clothing business to become a full-time photographer. In this candid conversation with writer Alexandra Dodd, Goldblatt shares his views about land and landscape, the dangerous lure of repetition in portrait photography, Johannesburg, the solipsism of life as a photographer, staying sharp, his visceral intolerance of censorship, his abiding interest in structures and his observation of instances of dominion under democracy, among other key themes.
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Dorothea Lange


Dorothea Lange

Courtesy of MACK and the National Archives, Washington, D.C.


Day Sleeper by Dorothea Lange and Sam Contis
Published by MACK
In this book Sam Contis presents a new window onto the work of the iconic American photographer Dorothea Lange. Drawing from Lange's extensive archive, Contis constructs a fragmented, unfamiliar world centred around the figure of the day sleeper – at once a symbol of respite and oblivion. The book shows us one artist through the eyes of another, with Contis responding to resonances between her and Lange's ways of seeing. It reveals a largely unknown side of Lange, and includes previously unseen photographs of her family, portraiture from her studio, and pictures made in the streets of San Francisco and the East Bay.
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Stephan Vanfleteren


Stephan Vanfleteren

© Stephan Vanfleteren


Present by Stephan Vanfleteren
Published by Hannibal Publishing
Stephan Vanfleteren (1969) is best known for his probing black and white portraits, but in recent decades he has also produced a wide range of documentary, artistic and personal work. From street photography in global cities like New York to the genocide in Rwanda, from building fronts and shop windows to the mystical landscapes of the Atlantic Wall, from still lifes to penetrating portraits. For Present, Vanfleteren has taken a generous selection of more than 400 photos from his ample archive, some of which have become iconic images while others have never been published before. In extensive texts, he reflects on how his own work and photography as a genre have evolved over the past decades and links these developments with a number of major social changes. This superbly illustrated book is an impressive overview of Vanfleteren's work and offers a comprehensive picture of him as a photographer, as an artist and, above all, as a human being living life with empathy, wonder and curiosity.
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More information about the book


Yukari Chikura


Yukari Chikura

Ancestors portrait in a 130-year-old liquor store © Yukari Chikura


Zaido by Yukari Chikura
Published by Steidl
This book is Yukari Chikura's preservation of the 1300-year-old Japanese ritual festivity Zaido. Following a series of tragedies including her father's sudden death, her own critical accident and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Chikura recalls how her father came to her in a dream with the words: Go to the village hidden deep in the snow where I lived a long time ago. And so with camera in hand she set off on a restorative pilgrimage to northeast Japan (the first of numerous journeys), which resulted in this book. Chikura arrived at the village, surreally silver in the snow and mist, and there discovered Zaido, where inhabitants from different villages gather on the second day of each new year and conduct a ritual dance to induce good fortune. The performers dedicate their sacred dance to the gods and undergo severe purifications. Combining photos of snowscapes that border on abstraction with images of the intricate masks and costumes of Zaido, Chikura depicts the cultural diversity of the participants as well as their common bond in creating collective memory and ensuring the survival of this ritual.
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Discover Zaido on All About Photo


Mimi Plumb


Mimi Plumb

© Mimi Plumb


The White Sky by Mimi Plumb.
Published by Stanley Barker
At 13 we wore faded jeans, torn at the knees, tight white t-shirts, long straight hair parted down the middle. We wandered through the suburban landscape hiding in corners, smoking cigarettes, looking for stuff to do.

Throughout my childhood years, growing up beneath the shadow of Mt. Diablo in the California suburb of Walnut Creek, I watched the rolling hills and valleys mushroom with tract homes and strip malls, and to me and my teenage friends, they were the blandest, saddest homes in the world.The starkness of the landscape hurt my eyes. The low brown hills coated with dry grass, scratching my ankles, fox tails caught in my socks. I was always looking for a place to hide from the bright, white sky. The raw dirt yards and treeless streets, model homes expanding exponentially, with imperceptible variation.
- Mimi Plumb

In her early twenties, the American Photographer Mimi Plumb looked back to her Californian childhood to make a series of photographs about suburban youth. The resulting photographs collected in her new book The White Sky builds a world in which an unknown trauma hangs heavy in the air, and children rule the roost.
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Sabine Weiss

Emotions by Sabine Weiss
Published by Editions de la Martiniere
Born in 1924, Sabine Weiss is the last representative of the post-war French humanist school, which brings together photographers such as Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis, Édouard Boubat and Izis. Eye-witness of her time, Sabine Weiss photographs people caught up in their daily life, captures attitudes, fixes the chance of a movement, of an expression. Through the streets and her encounters, her goal is attached to those we no longer look at: beggars, old people, children, gypsies... Made in her spare time, these photographs, which oscillate between realism and poetry, are part of her official commissioned work. Their apparent sobriety hides an assumed sense of framing and light.

At the age of 96, Sabine Weiss is now looking back on her prolific journey through a selection of 200 black and white photographs, iconic or more rare, but where emotion always emerges. The emotion captured by the lens. The emotion felt in front of these snapshots captured on the fly. A work entirely in the service of others, which translates a deep love for life and bears witness to the human condition.

With an introduction written by Marie Desplechin. Book in French
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VII Foundation


Don McCullin

© Don McCullin/Contact Press Images


IMAGINE: Reflections on Peace
Published by VII Foundation
When battlefield prowess and political manipulation are not enough to achieve peace through victory, we summon our best and brightest to negotiate an end; we celebrate peace settlements; and we give prizes, if not to victors, then to visionaries. We exalt peace as a human achievement, and justly so. But the reality of peace is flawed. The rewards of peace are elusive for the men and women who live in the post-conflict societies of our time. Why is it so difficult to make a good peace when it is so easy to imagine? That is the question behind Imagine: Reflections on Peace. In this stunning collection, photographic essays make grippingly palpable the stakes during war and peace. Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Justice Richard Goldstone, ICTY prosecutor, and Jonathan Powell, chief negotiator for the Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement, are joined by world-renown writers Jon Lee Anderson, Philip Gourevitch, Jon Swain, Robin Wright, Anthony Loyd and Martin Fletcher in revealing the complexities of redemption and rebuilding in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, and Rwanda. We hear first person accounts of survival and the search for inner peace that bring the big picture to the personal. With added insights from scholars and practitioners, the book offers a rare and fascinating glimpse into the unvarnished story of peace and a window into what it takes for societies and individuals to move forward after unspeakable brutality.
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More information about the book


Alessandra Sanguinetti


Alessandra Sanguinetti

© Alessandra Sanguinetti


The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and The Illusion of an Everlasting Summer by Alessandra Sanguinetti
Published by MACK
This book presents Alessandra Sanguinetti’s return to rural Argentina to continue her intimate collaboration with Belinda and Guillermina, two cousins who, as girls, were the subjects of the first book in her ongoing series, The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of Their Dreams. In this second volume, The Illusion of An Everlasting Summer, we follow Guillermina and Belinda from ages 14 to 24 as they negotiate the fluid territory between adolescence and young adulthood. Still surrounded by the animals and rural settings of their childhood, Everlasting Summer depicts the two cousins’ everyday lives as they experience young love, pregnancy, and motherhood - all of which, perhaps inevitably, results in an ever-increasing independence from their families and each other. Similarly, we can sense a shift in Sanguinetti's relationship to the cousins and the work they make: from insular childhood collaborators to three women with lives branching in different directions. Though the passage of time is one of the most palpable tensions at work in these photographs, An Everlasting Summer deepens Sanguinetti's exploration of the timeless, universal language of female intimacy and friendship.
Purchase a copy


Raymond Meeks


Raymond Meeks

© Raymond Meeks


Ciprian honey cathedral by Raymond Meeks
Published by MACK
Raymond Meeks is renowned for his use of photography and the book form to poetically distill the liminal junctures of vision, consciousness and comprehension. In ciprian honey cathedral, he brings this scrutiny close to home, delicately probing at the legibility of our material surroundings and the people closest to us. Meeks has long been fascinated by the way we construct the world around us; how we carry our possessions, these accumulated comforts, inheritances, markers of material success; how we adorn homes with trees and shrubs, a mantle clock to count the hours. Stumbling across an abandoned house or unkempt lawn becomes a search for common clues to tiny hidden transgressions. This question of knowledge and understanding is perhaps most drastic in our solipsistic reality. Meeks also photographed his partner, Adrianna Ault, in the early mornings before she awoke, on the threshold at which daily domestic life converges with the deepest state of sleep. This plight of supine trance is a place of reprieve beneath the surface of consciousness, free from the chaos and uncertainty of the sentient world above, and alludes to the veiled threat that, ultimately, we are utterly unknowable to one another.
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Ken Light


Ken Light

Midnight La Frontera © Ken Light


Midnight La Frontera by Ken Light
Published by TBW Books
Hardcover with tip-on front and verso 136 pages 66 plates 11.25 x 13.25 Introductory text by José Ángel Navejas in English and Spanish ISBN 978-1-942953-43-2 “The stretch between Tijuana and San Diego is long. Very long. And it is as treacherous as it is beautiful. It is unlikely that anybody who has ever crossed it will easily forget it. Its desert like landscape is bound to carve itself equally onto body and soul.” -José Ángel Navejas Between 1983 and 1987 along the California/Mexico border, Ken Light took his Hasselblad camera and flash and rode along with US Border Patrol agents in the middle of the night as they combed the Otay Mesa looking for “illegal aliens.” He was there when they were apprehended – captured by authorities as well as the photographer’s flash. The black and white images are stark, impromptu mug shots in the desert, taken at a moment of extreme vulnerability, when hope gave way to despair, migrants caught in a cruel game of hide and seek. Light’s photographs and José Ángel Navejas’ first hand, compelling memoir, presented in both English and Spanish, offer testimony of the harrowing night border crossing of those desperately seeking a chance a better life. A day after Navejas first crossed the US border from Mexico, he was caught and deported back onto the streets of Tijuana. Undeterred, he crawled back through a tunnel to San Diego, where he entered the United States forever. In piercing words and in strobe lit images caught against the dark of night, Midnight La Frontera’s immediacy underscores the struggle and defiance of those who hike for days and weeks looking for the American Dream.
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More information about the book


Christopher Anderson


Christopher Anderson

© Christopher Anderson


PIA by Christopher Anderson
Published by Stanley/Barker
Christopher Anderson’s first child, Atlas, was born in 2008. Hebegan photographing that experience in a completely organic and naive way. It was the natural action of a new father trying to stop time and not let one drop of the experience slip through. As a photographer, he had never photographed his own personal life. It never occurred to him that these photographs would be part of his “work”. They were external from what he considered his Photography. He was about two years into making those photographs when it dawned on Anderson that these photographs were, in fact, his life’s work and that everything he had done up to that point was a preparation for making those pictures. They became the book, SON, published in 2012 which portrayed a moment in time in Williamsburg Brooklyn, post 911 and the 2008 economic crash when artist lofts still made up the community before the luxury condos squashed the landscape. Pia could be called the spiritual sequel to that book. But this time, it marks a new era and search for hope in the Trump/ COVID19 reality. This time, Anderson’s daughter, Pia, is the protagonist and muse, and the backdrop is his French family’s return to Paris (Anderson became a naturalized French citizen in 2018). “The images portray a father-daughter relationship as well as a photographer-subject collaboration as Pia takes control of her character. The passage of time comes with a certain melancholy, but also a declaration of hope that guides the photographs.” - Christopher Anderson
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Tariq Zaidi


Tariq Zaidi

© Tariq Zaidi


Sapeur Ladies and Gentlemen of the Congo by Tariq Zaidi
Published by Kehrer Verlag
British photographer Tariq Zaidi presents a fashion subculture of Kinshasa & Brazzaville: La Sape, Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elégantes (Society of Ambiance-Makers & Elegant People). Its followers are known as Sapeurs (Sapeuses for women). Most have ordinary day jobs as taxi-drivers, tailors and gardeners, but as soon as they clock out they transform themselves into debonair dandies. Sashaying through the streets they are treated like rock stars - turning heads, bringing 'joie de vivre' to their communities and defying their circumstances.
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More information about the book


Mark Steinmetz


Mark Steinmetz

© Mark Steinmetz


Greater Atlanta by Mark Steinmetz
Published by Nazraeli Press
Mark Steinmetz completes his powerful and moving trilogy, 'South', with Greater Atlanta. Photographing in Atlanta and its outlying regions, Steinmetz provides his testimony on contemporary American civilization. Combining portraits and landscapes, he weaves a symbolic and lyrical investigation that subtly questions notions of progress. He further develops motifs on the automobile, on the telephone that were first introduced in 'South Central', and catalogues car culture, fast food, convenience stores, and suburban sprawl. Highly regarded for his black-and-white portraits, Mark Steinmetz is renowned for producing powerful pictures that capture the strong sense of displacement and isolation felt by many young Americans. His celebrated trilogy South (consisting of South Central, South East, and Greater Atlanta) was published by Nazraeli Press between 2007 and 2009, and offers a lyrical and evocative look at American culture and notions of progress. We are pleased to announce a new, remastered edition of these three important titles. The format, sequence and design are true to the original printings. The materials, however, have been upgraded, and the book is printed in quadratone on a special matte art paper. Long out of print, South Central, South East and Greater Atlanta have been elusive goals for many libraries. This remastered release will be a welcome addition to any good library of photographic books.
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Harry Gruyaert


Harry Gruyaert

© Harry Gruyaert


Irish Summers by Harry Gruyaert
Published by Gallery FIFTY ONE
For Gruyaert, who turns 80 next year, traveling has always been a way of breathing. Most of his well- known photographs were taken during numerous trips around the world and are often immortalized in thematic books, such as Gruyaert's publications about Morocco, Moscow, or his upcoming volume on India (scheduled to appear with Editions Xavier Barral this fall). Wherever he goes, the artist's main concern is to tell something about the country and time by means of photographing its specific color palette and light, and this without a predetermined agenda or story he wants to tell. This also accounts for Gruyaert's images of Ireland, the island he crossed in 1983-84 in his Volkswagen van, capturing the country's outstanding natural beauty and distinctive popular culture along the way. The portraits on view of stolen moments of happiness and collective recreation of the Irish working class of the 1980s on one of those rare sunny summer days, illustrate Gruyaert's interest in complex, borderline chaotic images and his ability to capture the 'decisive moment' on film.
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More information about the book


Ole Marius Joergensen


Ole Marius Joergensen

© Ole Marius Joergensen


No. Superhero by Ole Marius Joergensen
Published by New Heroes and Pioneers
No superhero is a series of work by the acclaimed Scandinavian artist, Ole Marius Joergensen. The work features meticulously staged, cinematic photographs that depict seemingly ordinary situations which are then infused with a juxtaposed narrative. This unlocks an unexpected and unique world that feels both old and new. Full of mystique and intrigue and set in the artist's native, rural Scandinavia, this series of images follows the protagonist on a silent, solitary journey that emphasises complex emotions. From the playful, to the dark, to the eccentric, each scene is depicted through a lens that captures childhood nostalgia with the hero as an ordinary man. The viewer can take a lot away from the images created by Joergensen. Not only can we appreciate the beauty in the landscape and subjects captured in this photography, but also the darker and more intriguing undertones. The photographer views Superman as a metaphor for taking risks all the while conflicted with the potentially impending failure. This offers a sense of tension to the work that can be palpable to the viewers of this collection.
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More information about the book


Ragnar Axelsson

Arctic Heroes by Ragnar Axelsson
Published by Kehrer Verlag
Arctic Heroes takes a poignant look at the fate of the Greenland sled dog. In Greenland, where the melting ice sheet is irrevocably disrupting the hunters' 4,000-year old traditional way of life, the stark reality of global warming is an immediate and direct threat to their everyday survival. The Greenland sled dog, essential to Inuit settlement and survival, now faces extinction as hunters are forced to adapt to the vanishing world around them. In over 150 images, and through hunters’ personal stories, this book bears witness to the animals’ magnificence and the deep, integral role they play in the hunters’ lives. The subjects of Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson, also known as RAX (b. 1958), are people, animals, and landscape, but the focus of his work is the extraordinary relationships the people of the Arctic have developed with their extreme environment.
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Jamie Johnson


Jamie Johnson

© Jamie Johnson


Growing Up Travelling by Jamie Johnson
Published by Kehrer Verlag
The US American photographer Jamie Johnson has been traveling around the world for twenty years and is best known for her touching portraits of children. When she came to Ireland for the first time in 2014, she immediately felt connected to the cosmos of the Irish Travellers and would visit and photograph them time and again for five years. The encounter with the children of this extremely poor and socially discriminated population group fascinated her and even changed her views as a mother. Fascinated by the resilience and optimism of the children, who are proud of the culture and traditions of the Irish Travellers, Johnson’s portraits aim to promote the perception and respect of children as such, far removed from the common prejudices of society.
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More information about the book


 George Byrne


 George Byrne

© George Byrne


Post Truth by George Byrne
Published by George Byrne Studio
Post Truth documents Byrne's explorations and examination of his new surroundings. He celebrates and memorializes the low-slung structures that originated in response to SoCal's automobile culture, the city's distinctive light, iconic flora and bleached facades. Images evolve from raw, photo-real street observations to dreamy compositions of pastel color. Internationally recognized for his large-scale photographs depicting textures, surfaces and landscapes as abstract assemblage, Byrne finds unconventional photogencism in the undistinguished structures, or junk space of the City of Angels.
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More information about the book


Reinout van den Bergh


Reinout van den Bergh

© Reinout van den Bergh


Eboundja by Reinout van den Bergh
Published by Kehrer Verlag
Home to some 30 families, the small fishing village of Eboundja is in the Océan district of southern Cameroon. Its nearly 200 villagers have been living in great insecurity about their future since 2009, the year in which Cameroonian authorities destined an 18 by 12 miles coastal zone as a domaine d'utilité publique. By decree. Its purpose being the construction of a deep sea harbour. Iron ore was found deep in the Cameroonian jungle. The Chinese government will exploit this natural resource for the upcoming 30 years. The new deep sea harbour from where the iron ore will be shipped by the Chinese is located in the centre of this earmarked coastal zone. Although the harbour is 8 miles further south of Eboundja, it is the designation of domaine d'utilité publique that makes the village vulnerable to the combination of corrupt authorities and megalomaniac developers. In the course of its existence, Eboundja has experienced many external influences. Colonial rule, both German and French, slavery and Christianization, unrestrained logging, offshore oil extraction, and lastly, development projects. From the moment they arose, these influences have been assimilated and are being kept alive in the village's present character. Not the new harbour, but dispossession may be one blow too many and too heavy. If it comes to that, Eboundja will disappear and along with it, the collective memory that is meant to record assimilated influences.
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More information about the book


Arnaud Montagard


Arnaud Montagard

© Arnaud Montagard


The Road Not Taken by Arnaud Montagard
Published by Setanta Books
The Road Not Taken by Arnaud Montagard investigates classic visual themes of Americana and touches upon some of the ideas laid down by the Beat poets. Leaving the fast paced city life behind and setting off on a journey into the American psyche. As an outsider who moved to New York some years ago, Arnaud's images are informed and inspired by the greats that precede him, but also announce his own unique style.
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More information about the book


Harvey Stein


Harvey Stein

©Harvey Stein


Then and There: Mardi Gras 1979 by Harvey Stein
Published by Zatara Press
Inspired by the Polaroid SX-70 instant photographs taken by the great Greek American artist, Lucas Samaras, the well-known photographer Harvey Stein, in the mid 1970's bought an SX-70 camera and for the rest of that decade used it to shoot in his signature style, intimate portraits of strangers in the street. This in addition to his major work of street photography in which he simultaneously confronts and collaborates with strangers using his two Leica M-4 film cameras.
As the Leica and the SX-70 cameras are two diametrically opposed picture making systems, Stein says he used different parts of his brain to document with these cameras public behavior at events in America during the 1970's that brought people together to perform and participate in, from the Ms. and Mr. Nude America Pagaent in Naked City, Indiana to the huge St. Patrick's Parade in Pittsburgh to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, California. In Then and There: Mardi Gras 1979, the 47 images investigate themes of identity, transformation, altered realities, reverie, memory, costume, past time, carnival and creativity; the richly colored, gem like photographs are shot just feet away from Stein's subjects, mostly at dusk with an all revealing flash attached to the Polaroid camera.
Purchase a copy
More information about the book

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