CV. Jan Banning, autonomous photographer

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©Jan Banning

Jan Banning is a Dutch autonomous artist/photographer, based in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
He was born in Almelo (Netherlands) on May 4, 1954, from Dutch East Indies parents, and he studied social and economic history at the Radboud 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’; also the repatriation of elderly Moluccans from the Netherlands to the Indonesian Moluccas in ‘Pulang: Back to Maluku’.

Study of history
His study 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 self-initiated 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’ (in De Volkskrant 8-5-2010, review of ‘Comfort Women’).

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.’

Social focus
Banning’s work always has a social focus. The social political environment is put at the fore and it often concerns subjects that have been neglected within the arts and are difficult to portray: state power, consequences of war, justice and injustice. Sometimes the work is the result of a sociological or anthropological classifying approach, such as ‘Bureaucratics’, a comparative study of the world of government officials. Other times he focuses more on the psychological aspects; on the divergent influence that major social events have on individuals (‘Comfort Women’, ‘Traces of War’, ‘Down and Out in the South’).

His projects usually have a personal point of departure, but are never ‘private’: he places the subjects that stem from his private life in a larger social context. To give an example: the history of Banning’s father and grandfather who were forced to do hard labour during the war is not only limited to something biographical related to those two family members, but instead it is broadened into a research into the long-term influence of abuse and humiliation on European and Asian labour slaves (‘Traces of War’).

Museums, exhibitions, print media
Banning’s art 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 (for more on collections, see here).

For a selection of his exhibitions, click here.

His photo series have been published in print media such as Days Japan, GEO (France, Germany, and International), l’Espresso, Newsweek (US and Japan), One World, Sunday Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Guardian Weekend, Time, Vrij Nederland and many others.

Aside from Dutch, Banning is fluent in English, German and Spanish, and speaks French reasonably well. He is living in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

Stageverslag_6 Low©Kim Verkade


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©Jan Banning

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Lectures, Workshops & and Presentations (selection)

In English: – CNN/Turner, Atlanta GA, USA, October 19, 2012 – Contemporary Art Center Kulanshi, Astana, Kazachstan, 2011 – Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK, 22 February 2012, 17.30, Research Forum South Room:     […]

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Sources of Inspiration: Shelley, Heine, Kollwitz, Jonker, Rembrandt

1. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) The Mask of Anarchy (Written on the occasion of the massacre carried out by the British Government 
at Peterloo, Manchester 1819) As I lay asleep […]

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Representation: Gallery & Agencies

Gallery:  Gallery Fontana represents Jan Banning’s art work. Telephone: + 31 20 7370597, E: Exhibitions Agent: Tina Keck, +49 177 5613240, Personal Agent: Maartje Wildeman Print Media: For print media, his work is […]

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Selected Magazines and Newspapers

  Banning’s photographs have been published in several magazines and newspapers, among them Foreign Policy (USA) Newsweek The New Yorker Time Geo (Germany and 13 other countries) Der Spiegel (Germany) […]

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Selected Bibliography

Among the many publications written about Banning and his work are those in the magazines Whitewall Magazine (Spring 2009), Photonews (December 2008), Art on Paper (September/October 2008), and Photo District News (February 2007). Kennis is geluk (book by Joost […]

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Documentary about Jan Banning: A Touch of Cruelty

By Frank van Osch,’.

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2020 Nomination Boellaardprijs (Utrecht, Netherlands). 2017 Prize in the Zilveren Camera (2nd in category Foreign documentary series) for RED. 2016 Social Documentary Network Award (for Law&Order). 2011 Bourse FNAC 2011 Runner-Up in the […]

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A selection of broadcasts over the years featuring the work of Jan Banning.

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Radio + Podcasts

A selection of radio broadcasts and podcasts over the years featuring the work of Jan Banning.