“Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives” by Simon Menner published by Hatje Cantz

The funniest things in the world are simultaneously the saddest and truest things. The intent of this comedy is not to belittle the circumstances but to make them bearable. Simon Menner acknowledges the ironic re-intrution of privacy by publishing surveillance images. “The presentation of most of the pictures reproduced here is naturally a two edged sword” he writes in the introduction.

The design of the book is surprisingly light hearted and has a tongue-in-cheek feel. At times it reads like an instruction manual rather than a photobook. It strikes a balance between being matter of fact, shocking, funny and frightening. This is especially the case when you realise that a lot of these type of images can now be seen on peoples’ instagram or facebook feeds. We don’t need people to spy on us anymore we have machines and ourselves to do that.

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“East: For the Record” published by Steidl

“East” is a photographic record of the historic events that occurred between August 1989 and January 1990 that brought down the Berlin Wall and reunited East and West Germany.  However instead of using cliched newsroom photos of people standing on top of the Wall, it is the everyday lives of regular people during that time that is featured in the foreground and the “historical events” that serve as the backdrop.

The book is mainly written in German for a German audience however it does contain an English translation of the Forward, essays and photo captions to be found at the very end of the book.  The main body of the book is the Photography section which is divided into the months August, September, Oktober, November and Dezember.  Each spread is spaciously laid out with photographs, the Day. Month., name of the contributing photographer and a short caption.  The overall effect is one of non sentimentality letting the photos individually stand on their own but all the while contributing to the overall tone and momentum.  90 % of the photos are in black and white with color serving as accents here and there.

It is a powerful testament to how history is written by regular people just by living the way they choose to and changing the course of history in the mean while.  Would be great to see more photobooks like “East” that gives a clearer view of the everyday context that accumulate and add up to momentous events that affect all our lives.

If you like this review enough to buy the book, please purchase from the Amazon link here:
“EAST: FOR THE RECORD”