Last month photographer Jan Banning‘s “Bureaucratics” exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center Kulanshi in Kazakhstan came to a close. The portraits, part of a long-term project Banning undertook where he photographed bureaucrats from all over the world, portray what he refers to as a “slightly ironic perspective on state authorities and institutes.” His statement on the project provides further context:
Bureaucratics is a project consisting of a book and exhibition containing 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 on five continents, selected on the basis of political, historical, and cultural considerations: Bolivia, China, France, India, Liberia, Russia, the United States, and Yemen. In each country, I visited up to hundreds of offices of members of the executive in different services and at different levels. 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. (via Jan Banning)
Since the book’s publication in 2008, the subject matter has proven resonant (the book is currently on its third print run). Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that so many people have either worked in a similar environment, or been driven to madness by the slow shuffle of bureaucracy in action. Whatever the case, Banning’s photographs prove that administrative work looks frighteningly similar no matter who is sitting behind the desk.
© Jan Banning. All images used with permission.