The Photobook Review

Remembering Gigi Giannuzzi

Gigi Giannuzzi. Photo: Carla Borel.

Gigi Giannuzzi died last Christmas eve, having published over eighty-five titles, mostly through his imprint Trolley Books. Publish is too polite a word to describe the process. Making a book with Gigi was more like surrendering your heart to a strange ritual. Magic, dread, and the perception of death were at the root of it. This was back when we were all busy inventing ourselves as an unlikely group, congregating around this wild man who wanted to help us make our books, help us form ourselves. Not because they were books. Or because they were even good. But because they provided him with ammunition, some resistance to the status quo. Even though Gigi could be very charming, he refused to be polite—to individuals, to institutions, to power. He rejected the systems of abuse, etiquette, and normality that he found abominable. Even toward his end Gigi was gathering evidence, publicly outing the corporations who control the world of cancer and the production of the chemotherapy that ironically gave him a few more weeks to battle.

This was also our chance to say good-bye.
We gathered around him as he lay on his famous green couch, drinking chocolate milk through a straw. Nine years earlier, on the night of his fortieth birthday, Gigi saved us from drowning. We were marooned in a narrow cigar boat, his old Luna Rosa, without even an inch of gas. It was midnight and we were drunk. On board were photojournalists Thomas Dworzak, Alex Majoli, and actor Sarita Choudhury, who was six months pregnant. Within minutes we were out at sea, and it was only when Gigi saw the anxious flashlight from Thomas’s camera that he pumelled out into the choppy water and pulled us back.

Gigi saved our skins many times over. But mostly he saved us from mediocrity. He was still angry at the state of the world, in love with what was possible, and thinking about new books as he lay on his couch with the look of a clown’s deep gloom. “Bad luck, isn’t it,” he growled softly, still fighting, still laughing. And even though he was weak, the atmosphere in the room was uniquely his. Messy and intense, full of joy and pain, full of contradictory personalities. It was a reminder of the multitude of book launches that merge into one epic blur, first in his sprawling apartment in Venice, where we met; then in the narrow shop front on Redchurch Street in London’s East End; and finally in his elegant gallery on Riding Street, further west, where his remarkable collaborator, Hannah Watson, continues unbroken.

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin are artists living and working in London. Together they have had numerous international exhibitions and have published nine monographs, including Ghetto (2003) and Mr. Mkhize’s Portrait (2004), both with Trolley Books.

Trolleyology, a survey of the first ten years of Trolley Books, will be published in June 2013. For more information, visit trolleybooks.com.

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The PhotoBook Review is a publication dedicated to the consideration of the photobook—focusing on the best photography books being published, from the coffee-table book to the handmade artist’s edition, and on creating a better understanding of the ecosystem of the photobook as a whole.

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