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Bureaucratics: A Project and Exhibition by Jan Banning

photo by jan banning

India, Bihar, bureaucracy, 2003. Typeroom in the Finance Department of “the Old Secretariat” in the state capital Patna. The seemingly rusty old typewriters are awaiting use: the department is supposed to be 40% understaffed. The presence of several snoring employees gives a different suggestion.

Photographer Jan Banning’s series entitled Bureaucratics focuses on civil servants stationed all over the world. He visited 8 countries over 5 continents and ended up with a set of 50 images of various individuals in their everyday work environments. His visits were unannounced to ensure that he would accurately capture what any normal citizen would encounter upon entering that office.

India, bureaucracy, Bihar, 2003. India-19/2003 [Tha, SKM (b. 1946)]. Surinder Kumar Mandal (b. 1946) is circle inspector of taxes in Thakurganj block, collecting taxes in a specific part of Kishanganj district, State of Bihar. Monthly salary: 9,500 rupees ($ 208, 189 euro). Surinder Kumar Mandal (b. 1946) is "circle inspector" van belastingen in Thakurganj Block, Kishanganj district, State of Bihar. Maandsalaris: 9,500 rupees (euro 189, US$ 208).

India, bureaucracy, Bihar, 2003. India-19/2003 [Tha, SKM (b. 1946)]. Surinder Kumar Mandal (b. 1946) is circle inspector of taxes in Thakurganj block, collecting taxes in a specific part of Kishanganj district, State of Bihar. Monthly salary: 9,500 rupees ($ 208, 189 euro).

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 it’s 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. 

India, bureaucracy, Bihar, 2003. India-19/2003 [Tha, SKM (b. 1946)]. Surinder Kumar Mandal (b. 1946) is circle inspector of taxes in Thakurganj block, collecting taxes in a specific part of Kishanganj district, State of Bihar. Monthly salary: 9,500 rupees ($ 208, 189 euro). Surinder Kumar Mandal (b. 1946) is "circle inspector" van belastingen in Thakurganj Block, Kishanganj district, State of Bihar. Maandsalaris: 9,500 rupees (euro 189, US$ 208).

Bolivia, bureaucracy, Potosi, 2005. Bolivia-09/2005 [Bet., MCC (b. 1951)]. Mario Calizaya Condor (b. 1951) is deputy mayor of Betanzos, Cornelia Saavedra province. He completed elementary school only and subsequently was a farmer. Monthly salary: 1,200 bolivianos ($ 149, euro 133).

Each office allows you a glimpse of their country’s culture, the person’s rank as well as their organizational skills. Some offices are cluttered with junk, papers and rusty typewriters, while others contain more interesting fixtures such as Bob Marley memorabilia, stuffed deer heads, etc. It’s quite interesting to match up the room to the subject.

China, bureaucracy, Shandong, 2007. China-09/2007 [GuL., WN (b. 1983)]. Wang Ning (b. 1983) works in the Economic Affairs office in Gu Lou community, Yanzhou city, Shandong province. She provides economic assistance to enterprises in her region and is the liaison officer between the government and local enterprises. Wang Ning is not married. She lives at home with her parents. Monthly salary: 2,100 renminbi (US$ 260, euro 228).

China, bureaucracy, Shandong, 2007. China-09/2007 [GuL., WN (b. 1983)]. Wang Ning (b. 1983) works in the Economic Affairs office in Gu Lou community, Yanzhou city, Shandong province. She provides economic assistance to enterprises in her region and is the liaison officer between the government and local enterprises. Wang Ning is not married. She lives at home with her parents. Monthly salary: 2,100 renminbi (US$ 260, euro 228).

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, this 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.

France, bureaucracy, Auvergne, 2006. France-16/2006 [Cle., RV (b.1957)]. Roger Vacher (b. 1957) is a narcotics agent with the national police force in Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dome department, Auvergne region. Monthly salary: euro 2,200 (US$ 2,893).

France, bureaucracy, Auvergne, 2006. France-16/2006 [Cle., RV (b.1957)]. Roger Vacher (b. 1957) is a narcotics agent with the national police force in Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dome department, Auvergne region. Monthly salary: euro 2,200 (US$ 2,893).

Click here to view all 50 photographs in the Bureaucratics series.

Patricia Ramos the author

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.

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