History as a Guessing Game
This small volume, with its brown semi-hardcover and title font in a metallic hue, is based around a simple idea executed aptly and systematically. The pages are unnumbered, and each right-hand page features a uniformly sized black-and-white childhood photo of a famous person from the twentieth century. The 142 portraits are arranged in alphabetical order – e.g., Hannah Arendt, Neil Armstrong, Bashar al-Assad, Fred Astaire – but the names of the subjects are always on the reverse, so that viewing becomes a guessing game with sometimes surprising answers. Each double page therefore presents a random combination of name and photo, making unconventional and sometimes almost comical historical connections. At the same time the book has a voyeuristic element that is reflected in its small and intimate format. While Walter Benjamin’s musings on childhood photos or the tradition of the Book of the Dead may linger in the background, the book also works without explicit reference to such concepts. It is aimed at a wide audience.