Jan Banning: Bureaucratics

27. August 2011 to 30. October 2011

In the exhibition Bureaucratics the Dutch photographer Jan Banning confronted bureaucracy as the involuntarily comical self-image of civilisation in his portraits - with equal parts humour, absurdity and compassion - of civil servants from around the world. Bureaucracy is often associated with desk wallahs, pencil pushing and inefficiency. The bureuacrats of Jan Banning's photos, however, present the opportunity to meet these civil servants in a wider context of both stereotypes and culturally complex codes, while addressing issues such as corruption and the abuse of power, the power of the state and democracy.

From 2003 to 2007, Banning, together with author Will Tinnemans, travelled eight countries from all over the world: Bolivia, China, India, Yemen, Liberia, Russia, France and the U.S. His portraits, from all these widely different countries, together constitute a colourful and diverse mix of cultures, rituals and symbols. Banning puts faces to the public system which we all have to relate to when, for instance, we need a passport or a driver's license renewed. His photos point to both the dissimilarities and similarities which can be found of, say, a rural district administrator in Nihar, India, a Texas sheriff and a governor of Shandong, China. The desk, for instance, whether a simple table or a beautifully shining piece of office furniture - is a recurring element, separating the individual from the public representative, irrespective of cultures. But other than that, bureaucracy takes on many different forms: in Yemen, female public servants are completely veiled; in Liberia, telephones, fax machines and computers are conspicuous by their absence; and in India, the traditional office set-up has been replaced by a table and a carrier cycle under the open sky.

The 50 photos of the exhibition could also be found in a major publication, issued by the Nazraeli Press and with a text by Will Tinnemans.

About Jan Banning:
Born in Holland in 1954 to Dutch-East Indian parents, Banning has worked as a photographer since 1981 - in particular with conceptual documentary photo. He is among the most noted European photographers, and his work has been praised by the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, Newsweek, Time a.o. Banning has won the 2004 World Press Photo, the most prestigious award within photojournalism, as well as several other photo awards. He has thus 10 times been nominated and won prizes at the Zilvern Camera.