Seiichi Furuya looks back at the beginning and end of his relationship with his late wife

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First Trip to Bologna 1978 / Last Trip to Venice 1985 is the seventh book in a series of titles about Furuya’s wife. In it, he revisits the first and final holidays they spent together before her untimely death

Between 1989 and 2010, Seiichi Furuya released a series of five books, titled Mémoires. They explored the relationship with his late wife, Christine Gössler, who tragically took her own life in 1985. Composed of portraits, the books chronicle the life they made together, focusing primarily on their day-to-day existence in Graz, Austria, where they met in 1978 and lived for six years. 

Throughout the making of Mémoires, the Japanese photographer attempts to work through the emotional fallout of his wife’s premature death, hoping to gain not just a better understanding of their relationship, but also of Gössler’s own thoughts and feelings during what was an extremely intimate, yet at times strained relationship. 

In 1983, Gössler was diagnosed with schizophrenia and, for the final two years of her life, was like “a shell with a closed lid”. Speaking last year in an interview with Aperture, Furuya said: “This lasted until her final day in Berlin in October 1985. It wasn’t until 2005 that I became fully aware that she was dealing with problems in her life alone.”

First Trip to Bologna 1978 / Last Trip to Venice 1985 is Furuya’s seventh book within this extensive body of work. It follows on from Face to Face (2020), which, for the first time since the photographer began working with his personal archive, includes photographs of him taken by her.

This release marked an important progression in the project, as Furuya showcased Gössler’s own participation in documenting their lives. “Finally, with Face to Face, Christine can be recognised as a creator herself,” he explains. “It’s another volume of Mémoires, with her being credited as the author of her own works.” 

In First Trip to Bologna 1978 / Last Trip to Venice 1985, we witness yet another evolution in the project, this time in regards to the medium. All of the releases up until this point have consisted of still photographs. The latest book presents frames taken from videos shot on Super 8 film during the pair’s first and last trips abroad.

Furuya had almost entirely forgotten about the initial trip. “I found this film in the attic and was very surprised when I watched the digitised film on a screen,” he says. “No matter how many times I watched the video, I couldn’t recollect memories from the trip [to Bologna]. It got to the point where I doubted if I was even there with her.” 

Acknowledging this gap in his memory, Furuya has focused on “creating a brand-new story” of the trip, reimagining this early experience in their relationship. These frames sit alongside images of the couple’s final holiday to Italy, shortly before Gössler’s death. Together, they continue Furuya’s three-decades long endeavour to give his wife “an eternal life”.

First Trip to Bologna 1978 / Last Trip to Venice 1985 is published by Chose Commune. 

Daniel Milroy Maher

Daniel Milroy Maher is a London-based writer and editor specialising in photographic journalism. His work has been published by The New York Times, Magnum Photos, Paper Journal, GUP Magazine, and VICE, among others. He also co-founded SWIM Magazine, an annual art and photography publication.