The Office

No. Not the BBC show or the American spin-off, but a wonderful Flickr photo set, by Dutch photographer Jan Banning.

Bureaucracy is an everyday form of state power with which citizens are confronted everywhere. Jan Banning has done portraits of bureaucrats at all levels, from village clerks to governors. Although the bureaucrats pose, their desk is the real subject. Thát is the permanent expression of their status and power. The person behind it is interchangeable, during his working hours assuming the role of immigration officer or revenue agent. That is emphasized by the pose in which he is photographed: as an actor playing himself. THE OFFICE (India/Indonesia, 2004-2006) is a work in progress, eventually to include bureaucrats in ten countries. The series on Bihar, a state in the world’s largest democracy, India, is completed; the series on Indonesia has just begun. The photographs are accompanied by interviews by Will Tinnemans.

These photos reveal wonderful little details, like this one from Bihar which shows that the highest ranked civil servant has a towel on his chair, which is claimed to be a tradition inherited from the British.