Trolleyology: A Visionary in Publishing

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Those who follow this blog may be aware that I am on a road trip through France, Spain, and Portugal. The trip started in Stuttgart and the last location I wrote about was Arles. More about the trip at the end of this entry. And again, to those who follow this blog: Feel free to contact me – I am always happy about advice on where to go, what to see, and who to meet! In this post I would like to honor two publishers who I had the pleasure to work with throughout the 25 years of my own publishing career. Both died far too early in the past two years, and both I unexpectedly met again during this trip through their books.The first is Gigi Giannuzzi, the publisher of Trolley Books. I must have first met him in the late 1990s at some convention or fair when he first launched Westzone Publishing – an endeavor that did not last very long, but even then I found the books he made interesting. The next time I ran into this photo book maniac was at the Frankfurt book fair in 2001, where he was pushing a real trolley down the aisles with the books he had published or wanted to publish. I really liked the spirit of this man, who saved the expensive booth costs by using a trolley to present his projects and books, which left a much better impression on me and others at the fair than sitting in a proper booth. For me today, his was a visionary outlook into the future of photo book publishing. In a time when there are very few bookstores left, publishers must now indeed travel the world with a trolley or something similar to constantly promote and sell their books. Gigi already had this idea in mind when starting Trolley. He was already taking his books to festivals and smaller book fairs when the bigger publishers were still only using the established book fairs (Frankfurt, London, ABA, USA). In 2011, he opened the gallery TJ Boulting, in London. In doing so, he expanded Trolley’s business base from just publishing books to selling photographs/art, and also by selling books directly rather than only through other stores and distributors. His books were always very ambitious, radical, and much harder to sell than the books that I published. Whenever we met I asked him the same question: How can you sell these books? (Most of his books were on war photography, human rights, poverty documentation, and other social documentary-related themes.) And he always confirmed that it was nearly impossible to sell through normal distribution channels. But Gigi Giannuzzi was a true publisher, meaning that he was convinced of the value and quality of his books, and he promoted his books as well as possible. He died at the age of 49 on Christmas Eve in 2012. Around that time, I tried to get in touch with some question, not knowing at all that he was sick. I was too late. There is a great book (Perhaps it is a bit too thick, like many books published these days) that I discovered at the recent photo book competition in Arles about Gigi and his publishing vision, called Trolleyology.

It was created by close friends and artists he had worked with, and edited by Julia Peyton-Jones, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Barry Miles. I could not get the book in Arles – our car has limited space for books – but will order one when I am back in Stuttgart this November. If I understand correctly, Trolley Books will continue to exist, and is now run by his partner Hannah Watson, working out of the London office. If you are interested in the story of Gigi see his Guardian obituary and visit the Trolley website.

The other publisher who died far too early, and whom I also encountered on this trip through one of his books, is Walter Keller: one of the founders of Fotomuseum Winterthur and, for me, the inventor of the modern photo book. At the Musée de L’Elysée in Lausanne you can see (besides other exhibitions on Chaplin and Amos Gitai) an exhibition on the French documentary photographer Gilles Peress. They also sell a book about his work, called Les Tombes, which was released by Keller’s publishing house Scalo in 1998.