© 2019 Anna Van Lenten

Bureaucratics / JAN BANNING

September 2010

Exhibit opening, screening, & talk

Tuesday September 28, 2010, 7:30 PM
Moderated by Jamie Wellford, Photo Editor at Newsweek

The product of an anarchist’s heart, an historian’s mind, and an artist’s eye, "Bureaucratics" is a comparative photographic study of the culture and symbols of state civil administrations and its servants in eight countries: Bolivia, China, France, India, Liberia, Russia, the United States, and Yemen. I selected these locations on the basis of political, historical, and cultural considerations. In each country, I paid unannounced visits to up to hundreds of offices in different services and at different levels. The accompanying writer, Will Tinnemans, by interviewing, kept the employees from tidying up. That way, the photos show what a local citizen would encounter when entering the office.

 

The photography has a conceptual approach reminiscent of August Sander’s People of the Twentieth Century. Each subject is posed behind his or her desk. The photos all 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. Though there is a high degree of humour and absurdity in these photos, they also show compassion with the inhabitants of the state’s paper labyrinth.

 

All photos © Jan Banning.

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