Gigi Giannuzzi: Iconoclastic publisher celebrated for his books of photojournalism

 

The mercurial, infinitely lovable Gigi Giannuzzi was an iconoclastic publisher, the founder of Trolley Books, whose specialty was alternative truth, his personal religion. Many of Trolley's publications could be defined as photojournalism. In March 2005, Trolley Books, founded in only 2001 and many of whose publications were determinedly uncommercial, received a special commendation from the Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards for its outstanding contribution to photography book publishing.

Although a cash-strapped operation, Trolley was no stranger to publishing gongs. At the 2004 American Photography Awards, both Agent Orange by the Vietnam war photographer Philip Jones Griffiths – "Philip personified what Gigi was fighting for and wanted to publish," said Hannah Watson, his business partner and former girlfriend – and Open Wound: Chechnya 1993-2004 by Stanley Greene – "I want to show what the Russians are doing in Chechnya," said Giannuzzi – were selected among the 10 Best Photography Books of the Year. "If he believed in an issue or if he believed in a project, he would see it all the way through," Greene said. "We're never again going to see anyone of his light passing through." A Million Shillings – Escape from Somalia by Alixandra Fazzina (2010) was given the NANSEN Refugee Award, the first time this was won by a photographer or journalist. Several other books won similar tributes. But Trolley also produced its share of art books: Don't Be So, the first book of poetry by Paul Fryer, illustrated by Damien Hirst; Nick Waplington's 2008 Double Dactyl; HIM Book, 101 absurdist images of Gordon McHarg's waxwork of Charles Saatchi, "the one piece of art that Charles Saatchi can't buy." Hannah Watson said of McHarg's volume: "As a publisher Gigi was quite prepared to put out books that didn't make sense. But they were fantastic."

There were also editions that fell between the two, like Daniele Tamagni's outstanding Gentlemen of Bacongo, documenting the stylish dandies – sapeurs, as they are known – of the Congo's Brazzaville. "The importance of being elegant," run the tome's first words: this was indubitably the theme of the book's 2009 launch party, and almost a definition of Giannuzzi himself, in Shoreditch's Redchurch Street, a few hundred yards from where in 2003 he set up Trolley's headquarters, incorporating his own living-space and an art gallery. The gallery was used to promote images from Trolley publications, as well as tangentially related artwork, such as a giant lighting installation by Paul Fryer and shows by Boo Savile and Henry Hudson, among others.

He was impeccably well-connected, almost entirely through the force of his charismatic personality, and his sense of taste permeated everything with which he came into contact. Hilariously dramatic stories shadowed him: when one morning a tow-truck tried to remove his car, Giannuzzi leapt out of bed, and, stark naked, lay in the road to prevent this; he was banned for life from the Groucho club after being chased out of a toilet before wiping his unattired behind on the entrance door-frame ("they thought I was doing coke, but I had diarrhoea after being in India"); in Venice, rescuing a party of friends whose boat was drifting out to sea, he first circled them in his own vessel, laughing, "Immigrants: go home!"

Born in Rome, Luigi Giannuzzi was the eldest of three brothers and one sister; their father was a notary. The family moved to Orvieto in Umbria; Gigi attended a naval college in Venice before taking a first-class degree in economics: he completed his four-year course in three years, despite frequently having been out all night partying.

In 1986 he arrived in London, and from 1987 to 1991 he worked in banking. Not wishing to lose touch with his soul, he went into publishing. In South America he lived a peripatetic existence, selling foreign rights to art books. For a brief time he was tour manager for the band Big Audio Dynamite.

In 1997 Giannuzzi formed Westzone Publishing; his first book was Ten Years After: Naples 1986-1996, by the American photographer Nan Goldin. Always under financial constraints, Westzone folded at the turn of the century. In 2001, Giannuzzi set up Trolley, initially in Venice; the name followed from that year's Frankfurt Book Fair: unable to afford his own stand, Giannuzzi, wearing a red velvet suit, had pushed around a shopping trolley containing his prospective publications. "It was a homeless image, but also one of freedom," said Hannah Watson. "It also had those connotations of being off your trolley."

At the end of 2003 Trolley opened in Shoreditch's Redchurch Street, kicking off with an exhibition to boost his photographic books. But as Redchurch Street became increasingly chic, so rents increased. Accordingly, in October 2011 Trolley moved to Riding House Street in Fitzrovia. That year Giannuzzi had been in Mexico, where he had met Masumi Rioja, with whom he fell in love.

Last June Giannuzzi was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was always adept at hustling funding, and this skill did not fail him. When news arose of his illness, the Situation Gigi art auction last September raised £230,000 for his treatment, with contributions from such artists as Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Gavin Turk, and Sarah Lucas. But conventional and alternative treatments failed to stem the disease's rapid progress; and his efforts to marry Masumi were thwarted by the bureaucratic eccentricities of their respective countries.

Luigi Giannuzzi, publisher and gallery owner: born Rome 10 July 1963; partner to Masumi Rioja; died 24 December 2012.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star