Winner Author Book Award Arles 2015
Following three years of travels and investigations in Germany, Tommaso Tanini’s H. said he loved us draws on the story of Honecker’s German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the German Ministry for State Security (STASI) to explore the feelings of oppression and dread caused by living in a state of constant suspicion and diffidence. Mingling documentary research and literary references within a fictional narrative framework, his personal photographic study is an allegory of authoritarianism and espionage.
Loosely inspired by Italian anti-Fascist writer, Corrado Alvaro ’s 1938 novel, Man Is Strong, a ferocious critique of totalitarianism and its abuse of paranoia and instilled fear to control the masses, the images of H. said he Loved us are immersed in a world devoid of names and references. Their timeless and placeless nature, their sinister quietness, reveal, instead, subtle and psychological qualities that invoke contemplation.
Anonymous corners and small details of urban landscape become enigmatic monuments that echo the feelings of the people Tanini encountered during his research. From this austere scenario emerge the stories of Baldur H., Ulrike P. and Helmut W., all victims of the STASI, reported by people they trusted and, most likely, loved. Presented as a patchwork of collected documents, autobiographical notes, archival images and portraits, they acquire a new fragmented spirit, becoming loose and interactive accounts.
Far from imposing any unilateral vision, H. said he Loved us is a mosaic of traces and suggestions woven together to warn us about the cyclical and evil nature of any form of totalitarianism.