‘Down and Out in the South’, a Photo Book by Jan Banning
Netherlands-based photographer Jan Banning caught our eye a couple of months ago with his series Bureaucratics wherein he made surprise visits to 8 countries across 5 continents and ended up with a set of 50 images of various individuals in their everyday work environments. This new project with the title Down and Out in the South is another powerful series from Banning capturing the “modern society’s outcasts.”
Banning enlisted the help of 42 homeless individuals in Atlanta, Ga.; Columbia, S.C.; and in the Mississippi Delta. While the subject of this series has been explored and photographed many times before, his approach adds a different perspective.
Without the stereotypical dwellings of homeless people, Banning was able to capture their individuality against a studio setting, a testament to who they are rather than what they are. It is a humanistic take on the subject of poverty and some of its implications on our society today. “Seeing a homeless person is somehow scratching our conscience,” Banning said.
“The reactions they were describing, how the community would react to them, basically not see them. Look away and look the other way, mainly. This is an interesting matter to think about as a photographer,” he said. “My job is to deal with visibility and to ask questions that are related to looking and observing.”
The result is a powerful collection of images that allows the viewer to see the individuals as regular people without the influence of their surroundings to skew your perception of them. Armed with his Fuji GX680, he developed a portfolio of portraits featuring local subjects that are very much like us.
“What it boils down to is the question of labeling. Are you concentrating on what makes other people different from you, or do you find yourself in these people, in these faces. Are they more familiar than you might want to admit?”