My daughter and I go to the Fotomuseum (The Hague Museum of Photography) as often as we can. The expositions change a few times a year and kids until 18 years old can enter for free. This time we went to see the first major retrospective of the Dutch photographer Jan Banning which runs until September 2nd. I absolutely loved this exposition but my daughter did not enjoy it at all. I’ll tell you why.
Jan Banning was born in Almelo on 4 May 1954 to Indo-Dutch parents. Before taking up photography in 1981 he studied social and economic history. The influence of his studies is omnipresent in his work. Banning presents a visual interpretation of social and political circumstances in different countries, as he travels the world attempting to visualise abstract concepts like state power, politics, the impact of war, justice and mostly injustice.
Banning has won numerous prizes for his photographic series, including a World Press Photo Award and eleven prizes in the Silver Camera competition. His photographs regularly appear in newspapers and magazines like The Guardian, Time and GEO.
His Bureaucratics (2003-2007) series is his most famous photoreportage and it is my favorite. Banning photographed public servants at their desks in eight different countries. The differences are impressive. From an empty hut in Liberia to chaotic paper towers in India and hunting trophies in Texas. There are so many details in these photos.
One of the men on the pictures only earns 17 euro a month while the other earns around 4500 euro a month. It’s very interesting to see and read but it is also very confronting and sad.
Between 2007 and 2009 Banning and journalist Hilde Janssen travelled through Indonesia, where he took portraits of women who were forced to work as sex slaves for the Japanese army in the Second World War.
The women, now at a very advanced age, gaze into the camera lens with piercing eyes. This is Banning’s way of breaking the taboo in Asia on the story of the thousands of women who were forced to work as sex slaves.