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Book Review: The Pigs


Book Review The Pigs By Carlos Spottorno Reviewed by Tom Leininger In an age where fake TV news shows deliver relevant reporting, Carlos Spottorno has created a book that spoofs The Economist business magazine and brings to light the causes and conditions of the economic trouble Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (PIGS) are now encountering. Like all good magazines there is a companion website offering more information.

The Pigs. By Carlos Spottorno.
 RM & Phree, 2013.
 
The Pigs
Reviewed by Tom Leininger

Photographs by Carlos Spottorno
$15.00
RM & Phree, 2013. Softcover. 112 pp., 80 illustrations, 7-3/4x10-1/2". 


In an age where fake TV news shows deliver relevant reporting, Carlos Spottorno has created a book that spoofs The Economist business magazine and brings to light the causes and conditions of the economic trouble Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (PIGS) are now encountering. Like all good magazines there is a companion website offering more information. All of the pictures captions are on the website. Even the lone fake ad for WTF Bank has a website too. It is not only the economists' opinions but the business media in general that Spottorno is aiming at.


Photography books, as objects, bring a level of seriousness to certain topics. Spottorno's use of the magazine does the same thing, even though the heft of the object is not as great as a hard bound book. After a succinct essay and cartoon, the pictures are presented as double trucks and tend to highlight those people and places struggling under the weight of the economic troubles. Due to the topographical similarities, the pictures feel as if they could be from the same place; a place that has not fully been touched by the 21st century -- or a place was touched by the 21st century, to negative result.

The Pigs, by Carlos Spottorno. Published by RM & Phree, 2013.

The color pictures bear the hallmarks of European photojournalism. One image shows the mass of tires left around a new housing complex. Irony drips out of the image of a man sleeping under a tree while being watched by ducks. Garbage removal is a common problem for these places. Many pictures reveal new and empty buildings. Another image shows a Muslim man praying in the shadow of an empty alley in Greece; the caption on the website explains how illegal immigrants of Muslim descent avoid public attention.

The Pigs, by Carlos Spottorno. Published by RM & Phree, 2013.
The Pigs, by Carlos Spottorno. Published by RM & Phree, 2013.

A row of abandoned high-tech turnstiles at the Epidauros Theater, an archaeological site in Greece. The caption suggests that a large amount of public money was used to install the entrance, yet it sits abandoned. Also from Greece, a thousands of years old column lying around behind an office building. It is clear that Greece is having trouble paying for its collective history. Spottorno does not include any of the images from the many austerity demonstrations that happened in these countries. Instead, his focus is on economic expansion and then the sudden stop. A lot of money has been spent on things that are not being used. A lot of buildings are not finished. The garbage is not being picked up. Records are stored in old books. Is this how we envisioned the 21st century? Questions like this are asked repeatedly in the book.

The Pigs, by Carlos Spottorno. Published by RM & Phree, 2013.

Residents of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain may take exception to Spottorno's work. It could be said that he is highlighting the negative views perpetuated by economists and others in the West. It could be argued that Spottorno is agreeing with the critics. Extra work is required of the reader to track down captions on the website, which gives depth to his pictures. This is the one weakness of the project; without the captions, the message comes through, just not as forcefully as it could have. Nevertheless, Spottorno has shown the great potential for making work like this.—TOM LEININGER

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2013 by:
Cristina De Middel
Elisa Medde
Manik Katyal
Martin Parr
Rob Hornstra

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TOM LEININGER is a photographer and educator based in North Texas. More of his work can be found on his website.

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