The Photobook Review

Arnold van Bruggen on Carlos Spottorno Wealth Management

“There is no truer mark of financial success than making money work for you, instead of having to work for money,” reads one of the smooth opening lines of Carlos Spottorno’s book Wealth Management. This introduction sets the tone for a series of sumptuous, monochrome images that depict a world of tailored shoes and solutions, mega yachts and corporate jungles, antique shops and fur coats.

After his provocative, PhotoBook Award–shortlisted 2013 book The Pigs—a clever parody of the Economist magazine, illustrating the media stereotypes used to describe the economic woes of Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain—Spottorno now turns a mocking eye on the keepers of global wealth. Seen in this light, Wealth Management, a term used to describe the financial services offered to the superrich, is a sequel to The Pigs. The crimes have been documented; now the hunt for the perpetrators is on. It is a step that too few documentarians take, and for this reason alone Wealth Management would be worthy of attention.

The link between The Pigs and Wealth Management becomes even clearer after a visit to Spottorno’s accompanying website, “You don’t need money. All you need is credit,” says the bold type below the fictional WTF Bank’s slogan, “Live beyond your means.” If you click “I am looking for money” and fill in what you want on the simple online form—a villa in Portofino for 3 million euros, for instance, to be obtained with easy credit—you are redirected to the website for The Pigs, where you’ll be confronted with the bitter consequences of your hopes and dreams.

Wealth Management is more than a photobook; I leafed through it with the promotional video for WTF Bank and The Pigs website open on my computer. It’s a transmedia project that seems suspiciously akin to a prospectus: you consult the brochure, then check its credentials online. The “bank’s” promotional video is a slick version of the book, complete with a smooth commercial voiceover and stock music. Spottorno’s photographs take a sober, classic, documentary approach to the theme, detached from their subject; but their beautiful grays and grains almost make you want to be there, giving them the commercial quality needed for WTF’s promotional material.

Does it work? I read the book with a degree of irony and laughed out loud at the brilliant corporate-speak, both invented and borrowed from actual financial websites and advertising materials. I was initially puzzled by the choice of bank name: it’s almost too obvious. However, a second reading reminded me of the even-less-probable stories that have emerged since the start of the financial crisis, such as Goldman Sachs’s role in securing Greece’s place in the Eurozone by helping it to hide the true extent of its debt. Then the full irony became apparent of a slogan like: “At WTF Bank we don’t merely adapt to the circumstances, we determine the circumstances.” WTF, indeed.

Arnold van Bruggen is a writer, filmmaker, and founder of the Amsterdam-based documentary production agency Prospektor, which specializes in new forms of on- and offline storytelling. He is also a cofounder, with photographer Rob Hornstra, of The Sochi Project. A second edition of their summary book, The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture, 2013), will be released this October.

Translated from Dutch by Cecily Layzell

Image: Carlos Spottorno
Wealth Management
RM Verlag/Phree • Barcelona/Madrid, 2015
Designed by Jaime Narváez
9 1/2 x 13 3/8 in. (24 x 34 cm) • 64 pages
33 black-and-white images • Softcover

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The PhotoBook Review is a publication dedicated to the consideration of the photobook—focusing on the best photography books being published, from the coffee-table book to the handmade artist’s edition, and on creating a better understanding of the ecosystem of the photobook as a whole.

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