Der Greif – the Germany print publication and award-winning organisation for contemporary photography – has made its comeback with its shockingly explicit 12th edition.
This comes following 11 exceptional printed issues, where, after its tenth, the magazine decided to proceed with a slight restructuring. Der Greif now invites guest editors to helm the pages and imagery seen throughout each edition. And launching the new structure for issue 11 was American photographer, artist and publisher Jason Fulford, who “worked delicately” with the archive of previous submissions, says Simon Lovermann, founder and artistic director of Der Greif. “The new format included a somewhat literary reference and made the object itself more book-like.”
For issue 12, Simon and his team have worked with Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin as the magazine’s next guest editors. The two artists, who both live and work in London, chose a thematic open call for those who were submitting – asking for photographs that are “too private, too quiet, too violent, too political, too subversive or too explicit to share online. Images that should never belong to Facebook, Instagram and others.”
But what does this mean exactly? “We wanted to know what makes an image ‘unshareable’ – from the personal perspective of the artists responding to the brief, and from the perspective of the companies that determine what is and what is not seen,” explains Adam. Collated in the form of a half-and-half split of photographic imagery, you begin with a bold opening page that’s aptly marked ‘Good’. Here, the ‘good’ images are placed alongside the ‘bad’ – the more disturbing, graphic and explicit versions are inverted to be viewed upside down. Half way through, it switches. Presumedly, this is to take the edge off the image, or to perhaps give the reader a choice in whether they want to experience the full effect. Either way, it’s an impactful journey and a shocking documentation of a world under censorship.
After receiving an enormous amount of submissions, the team turned towards a “disgruntled former Facebook employee”, in their words, for assistance in picking and censoring the content. This was a person who “agreed to break his NDA” and become a “central part of this issue.” Adam continues: “We interviewed him and he went through all of the 6,000 images we received, applying the same rules Facebook would apply […] this guy was the most important person in the whole project.”
Steering the attention away from the imagery – with difficulty – the overarching theme of the issue is in fact quite an interesting one. With an aim to deepen our understanding of how and why images are shared, Simon states how we’re confronted with masses of “image-bubbles” or “highly-selected circuits” on a daily occurrence. “In many ways, it’s about the power of a photography in an economy where images are subjected to many other – often algorithmic and very opaque – mechanisms which either raise visibility or censor photographs.” Striving to bring these topics to awareness, the printed form was, of course, a fitting choice; as a physical object that its readers can hold and keep, these online photographs are then put in a place that will remain as an experience, creating a lasting impact for as long its paper doesn’t get wet or crumpled.
With plans to create a display for a billboard in Munich’s city centre following a commission by the municipality of Munich, Der Greif are also working on an exhibition which will be hosted in the Stadtmuseum in Munich this September. “Both projects are directly related and connected to issue 12,” explains Simon. “We want to explore how these images are read and understood when they are displayed so publicly.”
But before getting your hands on this print-only publication – as this is just a short preview of its contents – how do its creators think you will respond to this issue? “With revulsion at how Facebook and other social media platforms treat us and our data,” says Adam. “We are not the consumers, we are the fucking products!”