Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bureaucratics: By an anarchist’s heart, a historian’s mind and an artist’s eye

IAS officer Varsha Joshi who calls herself a pathological reader has spotted the review of a book titled “Bureaucratics” written by Dutch historian and documentary photographer Jan Banning last year. As described in a blog post (brain pickings), Banning brings “a conceptual, typological approach to the dreariest of desk jobs, blending humor and absurdity with an astute portrait of socio political ineptitude”.
From Indian perspective, the book contains…
some of the amazing photos packaging the typical babudom. As the photographer captures the photo of then chief secretary of Bihar KAH Subramanian in his old secretariat office in Patna (2003), the background tells many a story. There is a Godrej almirah and a big charging light which could be used when there was no electricity. The caption says: “…he has a spacious official residence, an official car with a yellow flashing light and chauffeur, and enjoys numerous privileges.”
Banning’s portrayal of lower Indian bureaucracy is even more accurate. Whether it’s the office of a sub-inspector or an assistant clerk, he could capture the real sarkari office environment. Table fans, old wiring on the wall, heaps of files have formed the backdrop of Banning’s high-quality photo-shoots. One photo shows Panchayat chief of Tehta village (Jahanabad district, Bihar) in a makeshift office on an open filed. The caption however showers praise on the man: “He informs local farmers about the use of fertilizers, irrigation and other ways to achieve efficiency in agriculture. Monthly salary: 9,100 rupees (euro 181, US$ 199).”
As Banning himself has described, “Bureaucratics” is a “product of an anarchist’s heart, a historian’s mind and an artist’s eye.” It covers eight countries on five continents: Bolivia, China, France, India, Liberia, Russia, the United States, and Yemen. The visits were unannounced and “that way, the photos show what a local citizen would be confronted with when entering”.

1 comment:

  1. very good headline. interesting story; better than mundane stories in corridors of power