Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pieter Wisse — I Believe in 88

I am a long time reader of the excellent 500 photographers blog. I have to give some credit to Pieter Wisse, photograph, who is also the writer of this blog. He specializes in portraits and journalism photography and he recently published a book called I Believe in 88. The book is a documentary about the time he spent with neo-nazis in Wismar (East Germany).

Project statement: "After a violent encounter with a group of neo-nazis at the age of 14 where Pieter Wisse was stabbed in the stomach, he decided to take a closer look at the daily life of the people who call themselves neo-nazis in former East Germany, a group of people at the edge of our society."

Here is Pieter Wisse's conclusion to the book: ... I personally did not encounter any evil animals. The people I documented deeply believe in their extreme rightwing ideas. Violence is part of their lives and critical to acquiring status in the group. This puts them on the edge of society. Characteristic are equally their pride and loyalty towards comrades and family.Vanity and the craving for attention gave me the freedom to register the fineline between hate and love.


  1. Excellent photos, this is a book I'll try to get hold of. For me, though, the ultimate skinhead photo book will always be Gavin Watson's "Skins", and I have one of the prints from that on my wall. Though the skins in that book aren't racists.

    1. After reading an article a few months ago in your blog I bought Skins from Nick Knight, however my version of the book is not very well printed (the blacks are grey). I'll have a look at Gavin Watson's book.

      Some of the pictures in I Believe in 88 have more an aura of sadness, showing some of the problems of this working class environment, violence of this culture, influence on the children and families etc.

      The book can be bought on via the 500photographers blog.

  2. I didn't even know that Knight book existed, I kind of stuck to my battered copy of Spirit of '69 for many years. That is THE definitive skinhead book, but it's not a photo book like Watson's is.

    The Nazi skinheads I've met have almost invariably been very sad people. They talk a lot about love for race and nation, but they tend to be more focussed on destroying themselves and people they meet. In the interest of fairness, though, there ARE exceptions to this rule.

    I remember one young skingirl I encountered once, whose stories (kicked out of home, barred from entering a church, beat up by her fellow Nazi boyfriend etc) made me feel depressed for days. Human beings really are destructive beings, but also very frail.

  3. I probably read about Nick Knight's book somewhere else then... I was certain it was your blog !

    Nazism isn't an ideology for serene, peaceful people. I'm not very surprised by the kind of persons it would attract.

  4. No, you must have my Chronicles confused with some other blog written by a long-eared canine with an interest in neofolk, tweed and skinhead culture!

    I think there's a huge difference between being a Nazi pre-WWII and a Nazi today. Back when Nazism was an untested ideology, it attracted some quality people - like the most famous author of my country, Knut Hamsun. But after WWII, Auschwitz and all that, Nazism seems to be the preserve of very strange people. All the Nazis I've ever met or read writings by acknowledge that. I'm also very put off by how many of these people have weird sexual habits; look at Kevin Alfred Strom, for example. Creepy.

  5. Hi Everyone,

    Just found out this story was written on my book. Thank you!
    I noticed the discussion below the article focused more on other books regarding skinheads.
    Nick Knight's and Gavin Watson's have already been mentioned and should not be missing on your bookshelf, but there are a few others that are very worthwhile.
    My personal favourite is by Leo Regan entitled Public Enemies. It's very hard to find, but if you do, don't hesitate and purchase it.
    Skinstreet by Angelo Sindaco (published by Drago) is pretty good and Skinhead (A way of Life) by Klaus Farin is very informative in covering a lot of different groups within the skinhead culture. The last is not a photography book (although it contains many images and I believe is only available in German.) Klaus Farin also wrote the introduction for my book.

    Thanks for the shout-out!

    Greetings, Pieter Wisse

    1. Hey Peter, great to see you found out my blog ! I will definitely have a look at the books you mention.

      By the way, my blog is back online, so please don't hesitate to come back. I will be posting stuff on a regular basis.