You have to take the title of this post literally: after my first visit to the Fotofestival this year, I went back for 2 more visits, actually. Just to take more time to absorb all the work being exhibited. But anyway, I was there the 21st when I visited the festival’s bookshop. Besides the overall Fotofestival guide, I also bought 2 books: Joost van den Broek’s Goed Volk (Good People) and Jan Banning’s Down and Out in the South.
Joost van den Broek is a well-known and award winning Dutch photo journalist who works for a number of national newspapers and magazines. Most of his work shows his social engagement and this book, Goed Volk, is no exception. In a non-staged streetphotography style his photos show us how minorities and refugees are dealing with our multi-cultural society. It’s a book about people in our day to day lives and how they always find hope to overcome issues related to integration and (in)tolerance. There’s so much to see on every picture that you can easily spend minutes just watching and analyzing each photo. Because it addresses real issues of human interest and it’s done in an appealing style of photography, I’m very happy I bought this (signed!) book.
Also dealing with a minority of our society, but in a totally different way of photography, is the other book, Down and Out in the South, by Jan Banning. It’s a series of portraits of homeless men and women in the Southern parts of the US. What’s so special about the way Jan has pictured these people is, when you see their portraits you’re not able to tell they’re homeless. The photos are not shot in a way you more or less traditionally expect homeless people to be pictured. So you won’t see any empty bottles, cardboard boxes, needles, bridges, et cetera. Don’t expect any stereotypes. No, they look like any other person you know. Like your neighbour, like your colleague, like you and me. They simply happened to run into a piece of bad luck. Could happen to anyone.
Much more background information can be found at Jan Banning’s site www.janbanning.com. I especially like to point out that you need to scroll to the bottom of this page. Under Interviews you can hear the talks Jan had with the people before the actual shoot. It gives you the story behind the picture of 11 portraits. Although the interviews are anonomized so you don’t know which story goes with which portrait, it doesn’t really matter. It still tells you so much more and a story can apply to any portrait.
The book has already given me many moments of reflection and inspiration and I’m sure it will continue to do so. I most certainly recommend everybody you get this book, go to the website to get the story behind it and listen to the interviews (radio interviews with Jan himself as well, but only in Dutch, I’m afraid). It’s a fantastic add-on and experience.