Simon Menner
Top Secret

Germany, written by Alison Stieven-Taylor

© Simon Menner. Top Secret / Hatje Cantz

The photographic archives of the East German Secret Police, known as the Stasi, have revealed their secrets to Berlin-based photographic artist Simon Menner who has used these images to explore the notion of surveillance in a new book “Top Secret”.

On the pages of Top Secret one discover the faces of the Stasi  that spied  on the East German . Menner’s research reveals the ridiculous disguises the Stasi employed during their reign of terror. He also presents photographs of spies spying on other spies, confiscated objects, and staged surveillance operations withinin this bizarre collection.

These photographs could be  stills from a B-Grade spy movie and would be laughable were it not for the fact that they document the sinister acts of those wearing the fake beards, moustaches and wigs. These photographs capture “the repression exerted by the state on its own citizens. For me, the banality of some of these pictures make them even more repulsive,” says Menner who spent more than two years researching  the archives of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Archives of the former German Democratic Republic, the body that administers the Archive.

Top Secret has been divided into three chapters – Manuals, Operations and Internal Affairs. Each of these sections feature short photo essays with titles as eccentric as the photographs - “From a Seminar on Disguises”, “How to Apply Fake Hair”, “Secret house Searches” and “Shadowing a Subject” amongst others.

Menner’s work in Top Secret is designed to analyse the question of surveillance in modern society by looking at the “act of surveillance from the perspective of the surveillant”. Menner achieves this objective through his selection of images that present a unique inside view to a world previously hidden.

Top Secret by Simon Menner
Images from the Archives of the Stasi
In German and English
2013. 128 pp., 166 ills.
20.30 x 25.20 cm
, softcover
ISBN 978-3-7757-3620-6
Published by Hatje Cantz

More about this article


Related article

Simon Menner:
Top Secret

George Orwell foresaw in 1949 a world where government surveillance was fully integrated into modern life, and warned us of what happens when the object of power is power. “Power is in...