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front cover You Haven’t Seen Their Faces (2015)

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Mirelle Thijsen (MT):

I sent you some questions, regarding your recently published unorthodox photobook, and I wondered, because I wasn’t acquainted yet with your work, is this your first book?

Daniel Mayrit (DM):

Yes, it is.

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MT:

The title is not printed on the front cover, nor is there a French title inside the book. In terms of graphic design the text on the cover, in red bold capital letters, reads like a typical American public warning sign: These Are The Faces Of The 100 Most Powerful People in the City of London. Use These Images At Your Own Discretion. Why is that? Why did you choose this kind of opening?

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DM:

Indeed, it is a very unorthodox book. We were certainly aware of that in the process of making it. We did not want to go for a conventional cover either. First, if we were to put an image on the cover, that image would already be inside the book, because there are only 100 images, that have to be depicted, referring to a specific list numbered from 1 to 100. I was picking up on the idea of the public warning signs. One of the references is obviously the ‘WANTED’ sign, from the Wild West. So this type of lettering might recall such ‘WANTED’ posters. The sentence itself is doing what the rules of making photobooks tell you not to do. The first sentence is very descriptive: just describing what is inside, without showing it. Like in old horror movies, where they don’t show the monster untill the very end. By doing so a bit of expectation is created. And the second text fragment is the most important; we did not want to make a book that is only made to be looked at and stored on a shelf. Rather we wanted to invite the public, to suggest the possibility, that you could actually, physically, with you own hands, make use of this book. It all relates to the kind of binding, the printing and the map glued onto the back of the book. You can handle it, you can manipulate this book yourself. To make that clear, we actually had a reason to write it out in words on the front.

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MT:

That is very clear, thank you. The actual title is: You Haven’t Seen Their Faces. And right away the historical reference pops up: a seminal publication by the American woman photographer Margaret Bourke-White. I consider your approach the most provocative artist’s strategy towards found photography (blurry surveillance camera shots from Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), in the shortlisted books for the Photobook Award 2015. A smart appropriation of surveillance technology to instigate photography as evidence in the current financial and economic crisis, targeting the 100 most powerful people in the City of London as criminals, assuming their guilt. That is assumed to be the case. The title is a wink to a survey about the other side of society, the desperately poor working-class people in rural America, the southern states by Margaret Bourke-White, published in 1937: You Have Seen Their Faces. And then once again, I read in Wikipedia that the title is partly reminiscent of a short story by Whittaker Chambers -who looks like a criminal by the way – ‘You have seen the Heads’ (1931). Please elaborate further on these references.

DM:

I don’t know the story about Whittaker Chambers, I think he was a double agent or a Communist in the United States. The Margaret Bourke-White title was there from the very beginning, when I started working on the idea for the project.

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MT:

When exactly did Margaret Bourke-White come in?

DM:

At the very beginning … in 2012. When I started working on the images, two years before we made the book. There is something in documentary photography that I have always been concerned about. Documentary photographers tend to look at social context and whatever is wrong with the world, focusing on the symptoms. They rarely look at the causes. They stress the consequences, like Margaret Bourke-White, and Walker Evans and others were doing. That approach is not going to stop the problems from existing; you’re not aiming at the causes, at the core of the problem. It is a wink, but an analogy as well. Taking it in a way of what photography SHOULD do.

MT:

Yes, that is the title referencing. And there is some weight on surveillance technology to use photography as evidence.

DM:

I am making a statement. I am not making the statement that these people are all guilty. I am trying to play with the same techniques as the police do. This project was originally sparked by a leaflet, delivered by the Metropolitan Police of London in the letterboxes in our neighborhood.

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In this leaflet they are appealing for citizens’ help in recognizing a certain amount of people that initially were involved in the London Riots of 2011. Then again they were not saying they were guilty. But just because of the technique, these images invite you to assume that these people depicted are all guilty. The same counts for my approach: if you read the handwritten notes on the images in my book, in most cases, they probably would not be embarrassed about what I say, what I write, about them. It is more like how you read the pictures, than how we create the images. These sorts of codes: a high vantage point; very pixelated image; cropped to the face; low saturation, it seems like they already stand for guilt, whereas they are very arbitrary. It started at some point, making the first CCTV scan, that looked very ‘guilty-like’, and people decided it worked. So over time we all think, this technique – it is not more than technology – seems to convey that sense of guilt. Which is not necessarily conveyed in the picture itself but we are used to reading these images in that particular way.

MT:

So it is a matter of interpretation, of this specific kind of images, by the authorities, the public? It is not like a mug shot, is it?

DM:

Yes. No it is not like a mug shot, which is coded according to its own set of rules. The same counts for every genre of photography, be it documentary, studio portrait photography; every process of image making has its codes, in order for us to decipher what their meaning is. That meaning is not something that comes natural with the image; it is because we are used to read them in a particular way, for whatever reasons.

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MT:

It is a constructed reality.

DM:

Yes, that is what any kind of photography is about.

MT:

Before we talk about the genesis of the project, tell me: is it a book, or a manifest? Literally, pages are screwed together, in what I would describe as a block note. Oh, this is where the title is: on the spine! I didn’t notice it before!

DM:

As you said, you did not find it on the cover! You may call it the spine.

MT:

And so the 100 most powerful people are metaphorically ‘nailed’.

DM:

Yes, you got it right: we did not want to be very respectful to the images themselves. It is a way of saying: these are supposed to be very important people, but they are printed on brown disposable paper, in low quality images. You can barely see the faces of some of them; it is difficult to identify them. On top of that we are screwing into their images. It was gesture; it is a metaphor, as you said. This is as disrespectful as we can be. It picks up some other reference we were considering, at the time of making the book: the police clipboard. Where they takes notes, listen to a witness’ confession. They hold it from the top, rather than from the side, to open it. That’s where that sort of binding comes from. We actually tried out different clips, which didn’t work. That is when the screws came in.

MT:

I think it works!

Since we are now describing sober book technical features: Are the CCTV portraits printed on, what you just described as ‘disposable’ paper and what looks like brown packing paper, post office approved?

DM:

The paper is called craft paper, generally used for wrapping, for industrial sources.

MT:

That is the metaphor you are using too…

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DM:

Yes, we are printing your face on the cheapest disposable paper. Actually there was another coincidence that made us go for this kind of paper. Craft paper is laid: lines are going from side to side. That brings forth this surveillance look. When you print them on white paper, they still have this surveillance look, but if they are printed on the brown lined paper, it resembles the old deteriorated images on VHS tapes, or back in the days of the very first surveillance images; they were interlaced. We found that out by chance, by trying out different types of paper, by finding out this holds it together.

MT:

It is texture in the paper, delivering a conceptual dimension in the project.

Some more sober, simple technical features: A small sticker on the inside of the carton back cover (hand numbered and signed) contains – I call it very chic – a ‘colophon’. An inserted and folded map shows numbered Google Maps balloons. I haven’t taken it out, because I’m always uncertain about ruining something… And because I haven’t taken it out, I am going to ask you: Are the balloons corresponding with the numbered portraits? To indicate where these men and women live and work, are spotted?

DM:

The map is meant to be used! I’m going to show you then! One side of the map is the grid with the faces again.

MT:

Aha…like on your website!

DM:

This column here indicates the name of the company where they work for, the government, or institution. Followed by the address where the company is located, and the telephone number.

MT:

Ha-ha…

DM:

When you turn it around, you see the actual map, and the number of every of these balloons corresponds to the person on the list and shows you where to go if you want to find them.

MT:

Their professional work environment?

DM:

Yes, obviously not their private home addresses; because that would be illegal, but the companies they work for. That makes it possible to use the book in a literal sense: you can stick it in your pocket, as a travel guide, if you may, that was one of the gestures: to make it a functional book.

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MT:

Thank you, that is very clear.

So, how did this project come about; tell me please about the genesis of You Haven’t Seen Their Faces. It seems to have started with the way the London Metropolitan police dealt with the London Riots in 2011, by distributing blurry portraits of adolescents that were caught on surveillance cameras because they ‘presumably took part in the events.’ And this is what it is about: ‘Images of very low quality, almost amateur, were embedded with unquestioned authority due both to the device used for taking the photographs and to the institution distributing those images’. Is my feeling correct: that’s what it is all about?

DM:

We assume, just because they are on the list, they are guilty; it’s the way the images are constructed.

MT:

Please elaborate on your intend to appropriate ‘the characteristics of surveillance technology’ for this set of images.

DM:

The project started in Tottenham, the London district where the riots started in the summer of 2011 and the leaflets were distributed by the London police, depicting images of people that were allegedly involved in the riots. It fitted too well to the cliché of the young neighborhood criminals. Most of them were non-white, wearing hoodies, and fairly young, in their early twenties. The stereotypical gun criminals in the neighborhood, in the outskirts of cities, and town. We assumed they look like that….

MT:

Stereotyping people…

DM:

Yes, it is so typical. This was 2011, and pretty much every week there was a new scandal. Some important banker had some fortune in some tax haven….

MT:

Could you mention a few remarkable examples from those days?

DM:

There were scandals after scandals, even earlier than that. The Libor fixing, an index they base trades on, indicating how much you can sell or buy your stocks for. That procedure was all fixed by the banks. It was a huge scandal. For example, Barclays, one of the largest banks in the UK, was fined. The top managers were fired. Lehman Brothers, HSBC, and UBS have been involved in it too. They had to bail out Lloyds, they had to bail out RBS

The point is every single week there was a new scandal, a new fine, a new corruption case. I’m Spanish as well, and in Spain we know a lot about corruption in governments and banks…

So back to the leaflets, the police were delivering criminals at your front door, in your letterbox. And the persons I collected are responsible in some way or another for the economic crises, and we don’t even know what these people look like, apart from the one or two that are top managers and have been involved in some media scandal. The rest of them run the economy, in Europe, if not worldwide. When newsreels talk about the IMF, the World Bank and the Troika we can not even put a face on them. I wanted to do something about that. This lack of representation enables them to do what they do. They are not subject to public scrutiny; they are anonymous to most people. And if we can’t even portray them, how are we going to be able to start asking questions, to sue them, to bring them to trial? I had to tackle this lack of representation.

MT:

And how did you take the next step towards the visualisation of these people?

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DM:

I went into The City, and spent many days just walking around, going to places where bankers meet, visiting the headquarters of the top banks, going to restaurants where these people have their business lunch or dinner, trying to attend important events organized by the banks. And trying to make pictures of them. It was a very naïve approach; getting 100 images that fit the purpose, in real life, obviously was never going to work. Some of these people spent maybe one day a month in London; you can’t even know what they are up to: they might publish on their website that they are attending some public speech, or an opening of a new branch in town; this might account for the top ten, but most of them…let’s say number #087 or #093, how you’re going to find out you’re at the right time, on the right moment, in the right circumstances in order to take a picture?

MT:

I understand that the selection of 100 most powerful people is based on the annual report Square Mile Magazine 2013. What type of selection procedure is involved here? How did you select them?

DM:

I didn’t select them. I got them indeed from a list made by a Square Mile magazine, which is to be compared with the Financial Times, or Forbes. The magazine makes a list of the most powerful people in The City of London. They call it the ‘Power 100’ issue. Every year there is a new list. I think Forbes lists the 100 richest people in the world. I did not want to focus on wealth. In that list even football players and celebrities are included.

MT:

So, this list is your point of departure?

DM:

I did not want to make choices myself: why interfere? Why this person, and not the other…? This list was ‘given’ to me. Lets use today’s techniques to create these images. So I went online and started to search for the images, all 100 portraits. And after selecting the 100 applicable images for the book, I manipulated all of them, so they would look like surveillance images.

MT:

Aha!

DM:

So the pictures in the book are not actually surveillance images. I didn’t hijack any surveillance cameras…

MT:

It is a form of appropriated photography?

DM:

Yes, …yes! I made them look like surveillance images, but most of them are press images, that photojournalists took at a summit, or inside the Parliament. They come from different sources; most of them are photojournalistic images.

MT:

So you didn’t have to go anywhere?

DM:

No, but I did spend months in front of my computer screen!

MT:

I had a completely different idea about your way of working: I had the impression you were using scans from these CCTV cameras…on the spot in the City of London.

How did you make the transition from the found journalistic images of these specific 100 most powerful people, plucked from the Internet, to the idea to make them look like CCTV scans?

DM:

Mainly by using Photoshop… I am talking about the surveillance society that London lives in. London is the city of the world with the highest rate of surveillance cameras per habitant. Surveillance and London are very interconnected; they go together. I read in some statistics that an average citizen in London that goes to work and back home on a day, is registered by 300 surveillance cameras.

MT:

It is very present.

Let’s look at the people depicted: not only lots of CEO’s from the City of London, maintaining it’s role as the world’s top financial center for 7 years, until 2014 I read in the New York Times, but also the mayor of London (#017) is selected, as well as the prime minister, David Cameron (#004), and other government people. There is the Cabinet Secretary Government of the UK (#051); Paul Tucker (#23) ‘retired from public sector.’ He claims 5 million Pound Sterling pension at 54 years old, you wrote with a ballpoint pen on the CCTV print. You must have conducted some research, collected data…

Then you have the printout of the image and start to write on top of it? Is that how you worked?

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DM:

Yes, that is actually what I did. This set of images was made in particular for the book. The first set of images was printed for an exhibition without the written information on top. Something didn’t work quite well. When we initially started to work on the book with Riot Books publishers, who are also the designers of the book, we decided to give some information to the viewers to make them understand more about the issue. There is information on salary, on net worth, in the bottom left corner. It wasn’t enough.

MT:

Why wasn’t it enough?

DM:

Because it doesn’t quite explain what the project is about. If you read one person makes 8M a year, it makes you wonder. You may consider that a lot, or too much, but then again, maybe he’s worth it… But if I tell you he is involved in many scandals, and another person has been into jail, yet others have properties they haven’t accounted for, they have money in tax havens… Maybe that helps the viewer to understand a little bit better what this is about; it makes them more angry. What is going on here is borderline legal. Still, we considered that information was not enough, that’s how the map came about. Indicating to the viewer if you still want to do something about it yourself, you can.

First, there is the reference to the police clipboard, their notebook in which they start to take notes. We didn’t want to be respectful with these images: I care so little about the images themselves that I write all over them.

MT:

Yes. How did you find all this information?

DM:

All the information has been published, and is in public domain: in daily, mainly British, newspapers like the Guardian, the Telegraph, on the BBC, in Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, on news websites published by the established media. As I said, I spent a couple of months researching into each and every one of these people. Gathering information that was already available to me. I did not want to speculate and decided to leave out information on their private lives.

MT:

Some function descriptions make you wonder what these people do professionally. I am looking at the variety, the diversity of the population in The City: There is Lord Tim Clement-Jones (#051), top hedge fund managers (#057) and top lobbyists in the City (#091). Do you know what kind of work they actually do? Do you know what kind of work the job ‘financial conduct authority’ entails?

DM:

In fact the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are ‘the good guys’; it is an institution meant to regulate and supervise banking in The City. It is not government related, it’s an independent body for self-government of the banks in The City. They have the authority to impose fines; they have the authority to ban banks for a particular trade, so they regulate in the widest sense of the word. Because it is not a governmental body, they have not been elected by anybody, people working for the FCA (It used to be called FSA) have been bankers, working for one of these banks they are regulating now. How objective can you be?

MT:

Only 10% are women (#011; #029; #044, #059; #067; #069; #074; #075; #076; #099).

DM:

It happens in The City, it happens anywhere: women are under-represented. Actually there is this initiative called the ‘30% club’ aimed to get at least 30% of women on the top jobs, on boards of the 100 biggest companies in The City. Right now in the United Kingdom, about 25% of women have top jobs. Five years ago it was only 12%. So the percentage more than doubled in the past five years. I think it is peculiar how they would settle for 30%… This initiative was carried by one of the women on this list. Her name is Helena Morrisey. I don’t remember her number in the list….

MT:

We will get back to her later in the interview. Please tell me about the women at the top in the City of London. What do you know about these women, about their positions, their professional jobs, their influence?

DM:

They are not very different from the men, in a way that they all come from different backgrounds and have different jobs within the economical and financial system. The most powerful woman comes in on number #011 in the list; she is a CEO manager Anna Botin, a top person at Santander bank. She is actually Spanish. She is a CEO, because she happens to be the daughter of the former CEO, who passed away. It used to be his bank, now it is her bank.

There are a few women that work for the FCA. There are some female top lawyers. One of them is hedge fund manager and has a campaign group for gay rights in The City.

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MT:

Now that you mention this, is there a hierarchy from 1 to a 100? The first person #001 is the most powerful, according the list in Square Mile magazine?

DM:

Yes.

MT:

But not in terms of money making?

DM:

No, money is not an issue here. Some of the people that work for the government don’t really make that much money. There are some top civil servants in the list, but they make about 100.000 Pounds Sterling on a yearly basis.

MT:

Apart from collecting these digital press images and relevant information about scandals, liaisons, swopping jobs, claiming expenses, hourly fees from e.g., Martin Sorrell (#035) earning 3700 times the minimum wage which is really a statement in itself, I understand you also called up the City of London Corporation (#042)?

DM:

The City of London Corporation, again, is an institution for governing the City of London itself. In a way they have their own rules, and their own mayorship. The mayor, Boris Johnson #016, is actually not the mayor of the City. He has no power as such; it’s like a city within the city. It’s a different municipality so to speak. The laws that apply to the rest of London not necessarily apply to the City of London. That mayorship is already a thousand years old; it was there before London town. It is a very old structure; they have their own rules, their own hierarchy within this body. They’ve got an annual mayorship for the City of London; it rotates.

MT:

What are they allowed to do?

DM:

Not much! It’s more like a body that defends the interests of the City of London: A spokesperson.

MT:

Okay, I understand. Because of all the research, I presume you know more then we see in the book… Who are the most WANTED persons from these 100 influential people? And what is the message that is not conveyed by the book?

DM:

I can’t tell you that; it would be in the field of speculation, rather than facts. The top ten banks in the United Kingdom have all been involved in either money laundering, Libor scandals with index fixing, illegal trades, anything you can possibly imagine. It all has been published by the main media. And all top banks have been fined by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), or the government. The problem is the record fine was over 600M Pounds Sterling, but that is only equal to 1% of their yearly profit.

And who are the most WANTED? There is a man; he has been jailed for 6 months for being involved in trading fraud. That scandal was made public; it was all over the newspapers. And still, he is back on the list already. And the queen honoured him. I think he is number #046…Yes! His name is Gerald Ronson.

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MT:

I don’t want to probe too much; but because you have gained this bird’s eye view on the topic, is there a conclusion?

DM:

When I was doing the research, the first thing I realized is that we know NOTHING about how this financial system works. Literary nothing…And I cannot emphasize that enough. We might think we know how economy works, a little bit at least …but NO, forget it! That was very striking to find out how little we actually know. And I am not an expert, but I have major interest in economy. I read the news, the economic news, books about finances; I am generally interested. And I still feel ignorant: I know maybe 1% of how this works. And second, everybody is involved in something. Like in detective movies, how they build up the plot: some guy that pops up in the very end relates back to one protagonist showing up in the beginning. It’s a bit like that, the feeling or sensation. But maybe there is nothing incriminate, or no one is to blame. The company involved in the trading fraud might have strong links with the person that went to jail, and these two were involved in money laundering; so every one is connected.

MT:

Does this interrelationship suggest a mentality?

DM:

Yes…It is how the system works. At some moment in the process we were deciding what information to bring out in the book: salary, net worth, scandals, financial properties, etc. There was one category: ‘connections’, links that a person has with all the people in the book. We had to scrap that completely, because otherwise the publication would be overloaded with arrows back and forth. Every one makes deals with each other; they are one. They all have close connections to at least another ten within the list.

MT:

Some accusations and facts need more clarification. Nigel Boardman (#039) – an appropriate surname for somebody in the corporate world – is ‘called for banking deregulation on FT’, which stands for Financial Times, I guess? What does that mean? What did he actually do?

DM:

That is a matter of opinion. I believe, regarding the economical crunch, it goes back to the seventies, when they started deregulating the financial system in the United States. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan started to deregulate everything. Then Bill Clinton went a bit further, and his follow-ups chose for deregulation, or laisser faire, after him. Boardman is a top lawyer. And he was claiming that the banking system is still going bad because of too much financial services regulation and government policy. Whereas history has proven that every single time further deregulation is approved, society is getting into deeper trouble for the majority of the people. So, basically, Boardman wrote some articles, claiming that further deregulation will be better for everyone’s economy, which is an opinion I deeply doubt.

MT:

On a yellow memo sticker you write ‘need better image’ of Peter Martyr (#041) – another interesting surname in the context of your book – Global Chief Executive at Norton Rose. But it is an amazing picture: like starring into a black void and his face is popping up. It’s an artwork in itself.

DM:

For the sake of keeping the reader engaged, we wanted to give an esthetical quality to the book, create a flow in the book. All the images per se are boring. So, I play slightly with the quality of the images. That is why that particular image is very dark. It could have been any of the other images instead. Regarding the yellow post with the note: It is a way of saying: this project is not finished. On another post it reads: we ‘need more info’.

MT:

In fact you manipulated the image and created a ‘bad image’. The information is kind of playfully misleading.

DM:

Yes. We wanted to make a gesture to the viewer; you can go on and proceed with the research yourself. We did not want to claim: we are the artists, this is it. This is an on-going project. If you proceed with the project another ten years, more news will be coming out, more scandals will come to the surface, and different people will be involved.

MT:

What kind of company is Norton Rose?

DM:

I think it is a legal practice firm.

MT:

Now we get to Helena Morrissey (#044). She is a mother of 9 children, lives in Nothing Hill, in a 2.4M house. She is a board member of the Royal Academy, and as you mentioned earlier, Founder of the 30% Club, and ‘net worth’ $3.8BN (billions). What does that mean ‘net worth’?

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DM:

Net worth is a person’s and entities overall fortune: the total amount of assets. The money he or she has got in the bank.

MT:

Including real estate?

DM:

I don’t think it includes real estate…It might count shares and holds. Real estate is probably not the main chunk of their fortunes.

MT:

There is another notion I would like to discuss: some people are based in a ‘tax haven’: (#055) Brunswick (Delaware) and (#056) Bluecrest (Guerwey). What do you know about the London-based tax havens?

DM:

Brunswick is the name of the company. I think it is a public relations company, working in advertising and communication strategies. The person, number #055, is good friends with the prime minister of the United Kingdom and deals with his public image. They make a lot of money. What do I know about tax havens? Well, it is a way of licencing your company in a different country, or part of a country, in order to pay taxes there. Instead of paying taxes in the country where you operate, or where you should be paying your taxes. It is absolutely legal, that is one of the problems. That said; we have to ask ourselves if that practise should be legal? The Netherlands is a tax haven, as is Luxembourg, Gibraltar, the Caiman islands, Jersey Island, and Switzerland of course. There are a good number of tax havens in the world.

MT:

In some cases salary information remains ‘undisclosed.’ Why is that?

DM:

After months of research, we weren’t able to find information in a reputable newspaper or news agency.

MT:

Who are ‘we’? In general you use the first person plural.

DM:

Yes, that is true! I mean myself, and my publisher/designer. All the research I conducted myself. The book is 50% their input, 50% mine.

MT:

Okay, I understand. Let’s discuss Andrea Orcel (#060), co-chief executive investment banking UBS and receives $13M salary on a yearly basis. Judging by the name I thought it was a woman. He obtained a bonus of 21.3M Pound Sterling in 2008, ‘Year of the Crook’ you wrote in the right corner on top of his portrait.

DM:

‘Year of the crunch’!

MT:

Aha, ‘crunch’! The word is spelled differently. Would you please explain that notion ‘year of the crunch’ in this context?

DM:

That year Lehman Brother collapsed, and the world’s economy went down. It is very ironic that Orcel gets paid a 21.3M bonus, the year that everyone else is going to the pit, and the government has to bailout banks.

MT:

The art world is also represented in your book. Christian Levett is an art collector and founder of MACM (Musée d’Art. Classique à Mougins), worth 75M Pounds Sterling. Sir Ronald Cohen (#089), Director of the British Museum has a 15M worth home in Nothing Hill. How guilty is the art world?

DM:

I don’t think the art world is guilty of anything. These people use the art as just another way of speculating with money, and generating more wealth. That is probably the ‘guilt’ that the art world has to deal with.

MT:

Still, they are in charge of important art institutions, museums.

DM:

Did I say director? Yes in that case, there is a conflict of interest. You’re putting your money in art and run an art institution: meanwhile, you may not be so objective as you are expected to be. I think these people invest in art the same way as they invest in real estate or any fiscal material.

MT:

Yes, these people are institutionalized. They have this other way of being morally responsible in the art world.

DM:

I wouldn’t be bothered too much with the art world, judging the information in the book!

MT:

Okay, that helps! I think only in one specific case ‘no image’ is available (#071): Jonathan Sorrell, Chief Financial Director of Man Group. Why is he selected?

DM:

Man Group is a hedge fund. Again, he is not selected, he happens to be number #071 on the list. He is the only person; I couldn’t find a single image of. After months of searching, finishing 99%, I sensed this missing image is going to wrap up the whole project. Since this person has the power to remove his image from the Internet, he must have a lot of control and influence. If somebody would ask me to remove myself from the Internet, what would I do? I close my Facebook account; Instagram; delete my pictures….And still your images will show up. In fact, this person is a very public figure, a powerful person in Europe. The fact that his portrait is not public, explains how this system works, in this anonymity.

MT:

How transparent is it… you wonder. It’s remarkable.

What does a woman like Ann Cairns (#075) do wrong. It is all about wrong doing in a way, in her position as ‘President of International Markets Mastercard Worldwide’?

DM:

This person is one of the few we needed more information about. In general there isn’t anything wrong with what these people do; in her case, she runs Mastercard, it’s a company like Visa, Maestro, or American Express. I have collected some information about her, but we considered it not appropriate. It was a deliberate choice. At some points in the book we decided to break up the flow. Nothing was particularly dodgy about her.

MT:

You mean a kind of pause? You had information, but did not use it for this specific person and page?

DM:

Yes, …yes.

MT:

Who earns the most? Louis Bacon (#081)…he earns 400M on a yearly basis? And related to that is your statement: People in the City get an 18% salary raise (#093) while there’s a salary freeze in the public sector.

DM:

(#093) Rupert Harrison is an adviser to the Chancellor, the economic affairs minister in the UK. That is number #002 on the list; he is second in command. Because of the crisis, and the austerity plan in the UK a public sector pay freeze was held, for doctors, policemen, and civil servants. And again, the top people put their salaries 18% up. It is legal, but not very fair.

MT:

Those are powerful statements, just one-liners, but they give us so much information. That is a particular strong feature of the book.

DM:

We tried to be synthetic: condensing relevant information.

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MT:

The last question has to do with the modern day techniques. There is a remarkable variety in digital scanning options regarding the appropriated photojournalistic images simulating CCTV scans. (#097) Jan Hall’s (the biggest head hunter in the City) portrait is like an abstract painting. Did you create that?

DM:

This is an aesthetic decision. Again, 100 images, looking all the same, the viewer would not stay engaged. We needed some variety, some subtle differences. And the images of surveillance cameras don’t look all the same; there are different tones, different textures, and different size of the pixels. We needed to reference that the pictures are coming from different sources.

MT:

Could you explain why they are so different? How do these surveillance camera’s work?

DM:

Many factors are involved: the resolution of the camera, the technology used: VGA, or more contemporary video recording system, the original size of the image, to mention a few.

MT:

So how has this particular image (#097) been processed? One looks like a newspaper image, another like a still from a television screen…

DM:

In Photoshop. Every image, one by one, has been processed. It is custom-made software, a mixture of different techniques. I applied a special filter. For some of the images I would use several filters, or different patterns. The work all together took about a year.

MT:

Did anybody from The City, or Square Mile Magazine come after you legally?

DM:

No, not yet, and I hope it stays that way.

MT:

What comes next?

DM:

We might consider a second edition. This first edition is a print run of 350. After it is sold out we will probably put the images on the Internet, so people can continue to access the information.

Right now project wise, I have a work in progress about the police in Spain. The current government just pasted a law that criminalizes different protests: from demonstrations to spreading a banner. The aim of the law is to make these public actions illegal. Among those features in the law there is one paragraph that says it is forbidden to take any pictures of the police. Journalists are not allowed to take pictures of the police anymore, nor publish them. And secondly, they apply these loosely designed paragraphs to every circumstance. Everything could fit. The result is a lack of presentation of the police. Spain has a history in police brutality, and the repression of protests. So the aim of this paragraph is you cannot make recordings of a demonstration and put them up on Youtube. People have no longer access to this kind of images.

MT:

This is censorship.

DM:

Yes, basically so. I am working around that issue, and how this new unspoken censorship works. How can we still make images that are relevant, and fill that gap? Yet, I don’t know yet what the outcome will be like.

Of the 35 photobooks and catalogues nominated for the Photobook Award Shortlist 2015 a third is fitting into a genre on the march, definitely since the launch of OHIO Photomagazine in the mid 1990s: ‘Photobooks of Found Photographs’, but actually starting way before, in the 1960s. Some comments and comparisons.

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Good 70s by Mike Mandell, has not been released yet. A good old Afga-Geveart carton box for analogue photographic paper contains a set of facsimiles, of seminal publications and originally unpublished work. One early original book project is Seven never before published portraits of Edward Weston from 1974.

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This might well be the very first ‘exercise’ by Mandel in compiling an artist’s book on found photography: three years before his collaborative with Larry Sultan: Evidence was released. The booklet contains typewriter and handwritten letters to Mike Mandel by e.g. E.Stanley Weston, E.W. Garland, and Emma Weston based on a biography-oriented questionnaire. It’s a satire, and a form of ‘mail-art’, turning into a revelation of   personal lives of American citizens called ‘Edward Weston’. 35 letters went out, 7 of them responded in handwritten letters and personal snapshots. In terms of working method, the approach is equal to the artist’s strategy practiced by Sophie Calle.

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Another facsimile is Bottom of the Lake by Christian Patterson, which reminds me of 180o Laurence Aëgerter. Reproduced, re-worked and altered content of the ‘dictionnaire encyclopédique pour tous’ Petit Larousse en couleurs, Paris 1973. Including contemporary snapshots, documentary photographs, urban landscapes integrated in the Larouse lay-out. The pictures are taken in a 180-degree turn from the actual described object. The publication contains contributions from different photographers. Reproduction starts at page 993.

Illustrated people (2014) by Thomas Maileander is widely nominated.

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“Illustrated People” is the translation into book form of a performance by Thomas Mailaender. He applied to the skin of models 23 original negatives selected from the Archive of Modern Conflict’s collection before projecting a powerful UV lamp over them, thus revealing a fleeting image on the skin’s surface. Maileander then photographed each of his models before the sun made the image disappear. The book comprises the resulting shots combined with a series of photographic documents found in AMC’s collection.”

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Negatives by Xu Yong deals in yet another way with photographic negatives taken during the Tiananmen Square protests in Being China, in 1989. And (In Matters of) Karl by Dutch photographer Annette Behrens (one of two nominated book works published by Fw:Books) also deals with the progressive War of Terror during the twentieth century. Annette revealed in self-made and found photographs how collective memory and history creep into the seemingly bourgeois life of an SS officer Karl-Friedrich Höcker as depicted in his family album, which was anonymously donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C in 2007. Well documented.

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Greetings from Auschwitz is another way of dealing with the reminiscence of the Second World War. A collection of postcards sent by tourists to family, friends and beloved ones, after visiting the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Handwritten warm greetings on the backside of a macabre backdrop; ethically inappropriate is what the message is. All postcards are selected and edited by Pawel Szypulski.

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Deadline by Will Steacy is the first of two newsprint publications, I understand, deriving from the family archives, and is in line with Down these mean streets (2012). This first monograph and artist’s book by Will Steacy brings back in mind both the sketchbook of Hannah Hoch: Album (1933, 2004) and Pornografie (1971) by Klaus Staeck. Staecy is also a collage artist par excellence. In Down these mean streets self-made photographs on ‘fear and abandonment in America’s inner cities’ are juxtaposed to classy, banal, and propagandistic US newspaper clippings. Full page double spreads with headlines, cut out fragments of newspaper articles and handwritten notes on ‘financial crisis’, ‘zero jobs’, ‘bailing out’, ‘benefits and bargaining’ in American politics in the first decade of the 21st century as well as the historical events that got the country that far: post-World War II industrial growth, The Reagan years and 911. In short the ‘betrayal of the American Dream’. Excellent printing. It all has to do with ‘The Ink in His Blood’: His grandfather (I assume) wrote a college essay about his summer job at the York Dispatch in 1938.

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The most provocative artist’s strategy towards found photography (blurry surveillance camera shots from Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in this shortlist is manifested in You Haven’t Seen Their Faces by Daniel Mayrit. A smart appropriation of surveillance technology to instigate photography as evidence in the current financial and economic crisis, targeting the 100 most powerful people in the City of London as criminals, assuming their guilt. The title is a wink to a survey about the desperately poor working-class people in rural America, the southern states, by Margaret Bourke-White, published in 1937: You Have Seen Their Faces. And once again, that title is partly reminiscent of a short story by Whittaker Chambers: ‘You have seen the Heads’ (1931).

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Actually, all shortlisted Photography Catalogues of the Year deal with found photography in one way or another; photography as evidence is the main target in 2015. And of all 4 catalogues Beastly/Tierisch contains a motley crew of animal life pictures, cutouts from glossy magazines and such, AMC2 Journal issue 11 is black and blue in a different way: displaying the disguise and untruth of heroism in war photography against a backdrop of what…? Cozy, vintage self-adhesive shelf liner paper, maybe?

I vote for You Haven’t Seen Their Faces.