|Jan Banning (1954) is a Dutch photographer, based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, was born on May 4, 1954, from Dutch East Indies parents. He studied social and economic history at the University of Nijmegen. Both of these facts have had a strong influence on his photographic works.
His origin is expressed in the choice of subjects, such as Indonesian women who were forced to become prostitutes for the Japanese army during the Second World War in ‘Comfort Women’; or former forced labourers in South East Asia during the same period in ‘Traces of War: Survivors of the Burma and Sumatra Railways’; His study of history can be seen in the historical components of his subject matters. His academic education is expressed in his aim to achieve sound intellectual foundations for his projects on the basis of a thorough preliminary investigation. De Volkskrant reviewer Merel Bem wrote: ‘Each subject that Banning approaches (…), the photographer dives right in with the passion of a scientist’; and ‘This investigative approach might be an explanation for the fact that the form is a direct, concentrated and controlled result from the content’.
This academic basis can also be seen in his often conceptual approach and his regular use of the typological method (visual research in which he looks for variations within a tightly repeated form). Jean Dykstra wrote (in Art on Paper, Sept/Oct. 2008): ‘Borrowed from the methodology of science, it allows for differences to emerge within a category of similar things.’
In Banning’s work, the social political environment is put at the fore. It often concerns subjects that have been neglected within the arts and are difficult to portray: state power (in ‘Bureaucratics’), consequences of war in the titles above), a fresh look at homelessness (in ‘Down and Out in the South’), criminal justice (in his work in progress ‘Law and Order’) etc.
Banning’s work has been acquired by museums such as the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
It has been published in print media such as The New Yorker, Newsweek, Time, The Guardian Weekend, Sunday Times Magazine, GEO, l’Espresso, Vrij Nederland and many others.