Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Administrative Typologies - Jan Banning

Pt I. in a two part series (I was just going to do the one post tomorrow, and then I serendipitously came across these today via woods_s_lot).

While it's very easy to step over the line into monotonous repetition with the "typologies" approach to photography (something you could never accuse August Sander of), especially in it's more contemporary grid form, one thing I like about them when I work is what I call "the comparison game"

I found myself playing with Jan Banning's bureaucracy photographs - The Office. Even with the online version I find myself going back and froth between them. If they were in, say, linear form at an exhibition I would no doubt be scuttling back and forth along the wall looking from one to another.

I like getting drawn into the details - the differing facial expression between people behind similar desks in different countries (or vice versa). Or comparing what one has on his bookshelves with another, or what pictures they have on their wall, or drawn to the similar endless piles of papers in different photographs.

And even though for most of us living in N. America or Europe there's something of a slightly "exotic" tinge to most of these, that's more than overridden by the shared experience of bureaucracy and shuffling paperwork.

"Bureaucracy is an everyday form of state power with which citizens are confronted everywhere. Jan Banning has done portraits of bureaucrats at all levels, from village clerks to governors. Although the bureaucrats pose, their desk is the real subject. That is the permanent expression of their status and power. The person behind it is interchangeable, during his working hours assuming the role of immigration officer or revenue agent. That is emphasized by the pose in which he is photographed: as an actor playing himself. THE OFFICE (India/Indonesia, 2004-2006) is a work in progress, eventually to include bureaucrats in ten countries. The series on Bihar, a state in the world's largest democracy, India, is completed; the series on Indonesia has just begun."

I also like Bannig's use of extended captions with these images as well, such as: "Rp Yadav (born 7-8-1970), trained as history teacher, since 3-1-2002 he is sub-inspector of police in Maner Block (125.000 people), Patna district, Bihar. "I would rather have become a history teacher. But look at the unemployment here: I am happy to have a job." Yadav is in charge of 14 policemen. His salary: 10.000 rupees (200 euro) a month. He also has an official residence and car. behind him a plaque with his predecessors' names, to the right the local crime statistics since 1992." (below)

No comments: