(Stasi Spy Photographs Himself. When an agent photographed himself at work, he had probably attained the highest stage of his espionage training. © Simon Menner)
Over a period of two years, photographer Simon Menner researched the archives of the German Democratic Republic’s Ministry for State Security (Stasi), one of the most effective and feared surveillance organizations that ever existed. The quantity and breadth of the images he was able to unearth in that period provided invaluable visual evidence of surveillance from the organization. These images documented multiple areas of the Stasi, from seminars on disguises and how to apply fake facial hair, to secret house searches and spies photographing other spies. This material was compiled in his book Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives (Hatje Cantz, 2013).
We talked to Simon to know more about his project, the current state of surveillance, and the need to look further into the past to see what is possible.