Aug 11, 2011

You'd Never Know That Guy Was a Spy...

The Internet's gone crazy today about a fascinating exhibition of photos from the archives of the notorious East German spy agency, the Stasi. There's a good slideshow at Yahoo! News displaying a number of pictures demonstrating disguise techniques, used in Stasi training. Seen today in this perspective, they're honestly pretty hilarious. Somehow the guy in the pictures manages to look like a stereotypical spy in every single shot, whether he's posing as a tourist, a businessman or a proto-hipster. But Simon Menner, the artist who compiled these images, cautions against that reaction: "Many of these images might appear absurd or even funny," he writes in comments accompanying a wider assortment of the collection on the photo blog Conscientious Extended. "But it is very important to understand the intention behind them. It was a extremely repressive system that caused terror through its secret service. There is also something in these images that really frightens me." It's true. When you start putting yourself in Alec Leamas' shoes and imagining life in East Germany under constant surveillance, these silly photos suddenly take on new, harrowing dimensions. According to the MSNBC PhotoBlog, the photographs are currently on display at  the Morgen Contemporary in Berlin through August 20. If you can't get to Germany at the moment, however, you can check out the disguise pictures at Yahoo! and others, including some very interesting blurry surveillance photos of suspected Western agents taking their own photos (thus representing spies spying on spies who spy on spies, recalling the tagline of that Peter Fleming novel, The Sixth Column), at Conscientous Extended.

No comments: