Willem Popelier was an unexpected child. Seven minutes after his brother was born, he suddenly appeared. It was not to be long before the twins were parted, however. Within four years his brother had been moved to a children’s home and not long afterwards he was placed with a foster family. Numerous moves and shifting parental relationships later, Willem was placed with the same family for a few years. Later still, now aged twenty-eight, he went in search of his roots. This book is the result.
The panel thought it was a first-person narrative that made one eager to know more. Originally Willem’s twin brother and foster parents were happy to be photographed, but in the end they decided not to collaborate on the book; their names have accordingly been rigorously blacked out and their faces replaced by beige rectangles.
The book examines this complex family history from a number of angles. Introductory pages are followed on photo paper by a section of Persons, recent portraits taken by Willem of his relatives; next comes Chronology, with clever infographics on thin paper, Places of Residence, Correspondence, with many partially covered or blanked-out documents, Objects, and at the end, in the photos section, surviving family snaps.
The type is an appropriate typewriter face, and office beige appears as a fifth colour. The presentation is uniformly restrained, helped by generous use of white space. This is not to say, however, that it is in any way cold: below the surface you can feel the emotion seething.
Bronze medal, Best Book Design from all over the World, Leipzig 2011