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Trolleyology

EDITED BY: Hannah Watson and Jessie Ramsay
PUBLISHED: 2013, Trolley Books, London
SIZE: 165×220 mm
PAGES: 466
PHOTOGRAPHS: Colour and b&w throughout

Trolleyology - The First Ten Years of Trolley Books

Trolleyology was conceived as a celebration of the first decade of the photojournalism and art book publishers Trolley Books which was founded by Gigi Giannuzzi in 2001. Production began after Giannuzzi was diagnosed with terminal cancer and is a tribute by Trolley contributors to the astute Italian maverick who turned publishing into a theatre of ideas.

Well-connected and with an extraordinary ability to hustle funding Gigi (it seems everyone knew him as Gigi) would embrace the edgy, political photojournalism that traditional publishers thought dangerous or unprofitable and publish it in elegantly designed and beautifully printed volumes.

The big publishers want to put down their ideas of who you are, writes the photojournalist Stanley Greene in Trolleyology. Gigi, on the other hand, was a kindred spirit who helped you with your dreams, and nightmares. “Gigi always gave you a chance to be you,” explains Greene.

Trolly contributors Nan Goldin, Chris Steel Perkins and Gaz Mayall, the nightclub owner and son of blues musician John Mayall, agree that Gigi was one of the few people who ‘got’ their work.

If the publisher understands the work then the story being told – sometimes about the lives of the underprivileged and dispossessed of this world – is more likely to be understood by the reader who, in turn, might exert a positive influence on the issue addressed.

Trolleyology describes the history behind eighty books published by Trolley since 2001.

Talking about A Million Shillings Escape from Somalia published by Trolley in 2010, Alixandra Fazzina describes how the IOM and the UNHCR used her book to raise funds for impoverished Somali refugees who were putting their lives in the hands of people smugglers. The refugees paid a million Somali shillings, about £500 each, for a crossing of the Gulf of Aden which one in twenty of them would not survive.

The same year the book was published Fazzina became the first journalist and the first photographer to be awarded the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award which honors extraordinary services to refugees. Eleanor Roosevelt and Graça Machel are among previous recipients.

Fazzina acknowledges that her message of suffering in the Horn of Africa would not have had the impact it did without A Million Shillings and the power of publishing.

“A photography book draws attention to the pictures and enables the press to write up the story and open the way for people to discuss the issue, which is why the photographer took the pictures,” Gigi told Dazed and Confused in 2006.

Born in Rome in 1963, Luigi Giannuzzi read economics at the University of Milan before moving to London where he joined Nat West bank as an investment analyst in 1987. Reserved and sensitive, the young Giannuzzi was nevertheless a charismatic figure who made friends easily. A spell in rock and roll tour management gives a glimpse of the Gigi we meet in Trolleyology as might a job in the foreign rights department at publishers Rizzoli, who’s founder Angelo Rizzoli produced Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and 8½.

Giannuzzi’s last job before becoming a publisher himself was with art book and newspaper publishers Umberto Allemandi of Turin.

In 1997 Gigi and gallery owner Guido Costa dreampt up the publishing house Westzone. With only one computer and no chairs they asked Nan Goldin (who’s Ten Years After became their first production) for money for sandwiches and petrol, which she gave to the two Italians because she trusted them like they were her brothers. “Like a brother” is a phrase that recurs throughout Trolleyology.

Westzone published fifteen titles before it was sold, and quickly wound up by its new owners. In September 2001 Gigi launched Trolley Books in London with the help of a silent backer and Phaidon which agreed to handle world wide distribution.

Among the photo books Trolley published during the next ten years were Taliban (2003), a rogue’s gallery of found colour and hand tinted studio photographs of Pashtun fighters in high-heeled sandals and black eyeliner taken at a time the representation of the human face was proscribed by their own Sharia law, and the deliciously subversive Official Portraits (2004), an idea worth returning to every ten years or so, the disconnect of world leaders and their advisers being what it is.

Trolley also published the colourful Love Me Turkmenistan (2008) and Yes To A Rosy Future (2007) by dictatorship specialist Nicholas Righetti, the latter title coming from a slogan used in Syria during Bashar al-Assad’s unopposed 2007 presidential campaign.

In the gritty black and white school of photojournalism books are Stanley Greene’s Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003 (2004), a work “too dark for other publishers,” and Paolo Pellegrin’s Kosovo 1999-2000: The Flight of Reason (2002) which Pellegrin tells us got him into Magnum and changed his life.

It was with another Magnum photographer that Gigi developed his closest working relationship. With an eye for human folly, distrust of institutions and empathy with the many victims of war, Philip Jones Griffiths shared Gigi’s sceptical and slightly mischevious outlook on the world. Both were meticulous in their work.

Donna Ferrato recounts how the veteran photojournalist and the young publisher bonded like father and son. Perhaps in some intangible way both men sensed that time was short.

When they met Philip Jones Griffiths was looking for a publisher for his work on agent orange. He’d only one other book of photography to his name since Time magazine, in 1971, hailed Vietnam Inc. as the best photo-reportage of war ever published.

Over the next five years Gigi and Griffiths produced three books together: the “unpublishable” Agent Orange: Collateral Damage in Viet Nam (2003), Viet Nam at Peace (2005) and Recollections (2008) which Philip worked on right up to the day before he died from pancreatic cancer, the same awful disease which was to kill Gigi on Christmas Eve 2012.

Gigi hadn’t made 50 when he died. In the introduction to Trolleyology Barry Miles describes him as loud, rasping, insistent, an excited facilitator, a fixer and infuriating passionate genius. Here was someone who would disappear from peoples lives for years then telephone out of the blue saying he’d like to do a book with them. Or he’d arrive happy and smiling direct from the printers, in a vehicle groaning from the weight of books, minutes before an opening or book signing.

Fashion photographer Fabio Paleari writes, “Gigi had a rule of never entering into contracts with his photographers” and Jocelyn Bain Hogg takes the opportunity to explain that, in search for some unpaid royalties, he did not turn up at a Trolley opening one evening accompanied by a ‘goodfella’ nor was Gigi’s life ever threatened.

When not in London Gigi might be in Venice where he rented a high ceilinged apartment on Ca’ Albrizzi, which, if there were no parties to go to, became an office where everyone would work intently from six in the evening until two a.m.. If the Biennale was on he’d blag his way into events through the main entrance or, if turned away, he’d navigate his motorboat to the back canal and get in from there.

Pierpaolo Mittica remembers Gigi railing against Silvio Berlusconi in a freezing Venetian fog before persuading a taxi driver to take him to the airport in exchange for one of his books. In his review of Trolleyology, Robin Maddock recalls Gigi collecting all the VIP tickets from the floor at a party and throwing them over the wall so his friends could get in.

“They call me the Trolley man in Frankfurt,” Gigi once told Fabio Paleari. “When I arrive there in October I never have a penny in my pocket, so I steal a trolly and take it into the fair. That’s my stand, my trolly full of books hot off the press,” said Gigi. “I love the smell of fresh ink.”

Trolleyology is elegantly designed by Trolley regulars Fruitmachine. A print run of 2,000 copies of the book cost €22,000 of which £13,287 (€15,570) was raised through a Kickstarter campaign to which many Trolley contributors subscribed.

With 466 pages it is a saffron brick of a book heavy with illustrations. It has just about everything you need to know about Gigi and Trolly Books and so would have benefited from an index. Hannah Watson, who joined Trolley in 2005 and now heads the publishers, is mentioned only occasionally which is right as she herself edited the book with Jessie Ramsay. As usual for Trolley the book is printed in Italy, on this occasion by Grafiche Antiga.

Perhaps Trolleyology will become a handbook for guerrilla publishers. It shows that for the quick witted there are alternative ways of producing quality and influential works of photojournalism.

It could also prove to be an inspiration to all the potential Gigi Giannuzzi’s out there. Although, by all accounts, there was, and only ever will be one.


For the next decade of Trolley Books visit the Trolley Books web site.

Text copyright © 2013 Graham Harrison.

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