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Jan Banning September 28, 2009

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in India.
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Surinder Kumar Mandal, tax inspector, Bihar India

Jan Banning (b.1954, Netherlands) was born from Dutch-East-Indies parents. He studied social and economic history at the University of Nijmegen and has been working as a photographer since 1981. His documentary work, rooted in both art and journalism, has been exhibited and published widely in books, magazines and newspapers. The central concern in his work is the theme of state power; Banning has produced series on the world of government bureaucracy (which received a World Press Photo and several other awards) and the long-term consequences of war. Currently he is working on a portrait series of World War II “comfort women” in Indonesia.

About the Photograph:

“This photo is from the self-initiated project Bureaucratics, resulting in a book (published by Nazraeli) and travelling exhibition of 50 photographs: the product of an anarchist’s heart, a historian’s mind and an artist’s eye. It is a comparative photographic study of the culture, rituals and symbols of state civil administrations and its servants in eight countries, selected on the basis of polical, historical and cultural considerations: Bolivia, China, France, India, Liberia, Russia, the United States, and Yemen. In India I visited hundreds of offices of members of the executive. The visits were unannounced and the accompanying writer, Will Tinnemans, by interviewing kept the employees from tidying up or clearing the office. That way, the photos show what a local citizen would be confronted with when entering.”

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“My photography nowadays has a conceptual, typological approach. In Bureaucratics, all photos have a square format (fitting the subject), are shot from the same height (that of the client), with the desk – its front or side photographed parallel to the horizontal edges of the frame – serving as a bulwark protecting the representative of rule and regulation against the individual citizen, the warm-blooded exception. They are full of telling details that sometimes reveal the way the state proclaims its power or the bureaucrat’s rank and function, sometimes of a more private character and are accompanied by information such as name, age, function and salary. Though there is a high degree of humor and absurdity in these photos, they also show compassion with the inhabitants of the state’s paper labyrinth.”

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