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Jan Banning

Jan Banning’s books include Red Utopia (Ipso Facto and Nazraeli, 2017), Law & Order (Ipso Facto, 2015), Down and Out in the South (Ipso Facto, 2013), Comfort Women (Ipso Facto and Seltmann& Söhne, 2010), and Bureaucratics (Nazraeli, 2008). Among his many awards is a World Press Photo Award. 


Hancock County Court. Sparta, GA, 2013. The building, from 1881, burned to the ground in 2014. Photograph by Jan Banning.

Law & Order

Fall 2017 | Photography

Our justice systems are answers to fundamental human questions that reach as far back as the Bible, and beyond: What should happen to a person who breaks the community’s moral code?

If the question is simple, the answer, and its execution, as Jan Banning’s photographs reflect, is dizzyingly messy. We require laws—but those laws, in their catch-all nature, lack nuance, and can’t always account for context and circumstance. We require judges—but those judges are men and women who, unlike that bronzed Lady Justice clutching her scales, are incapable of absolute impartiality. We require courts and clerks, jails and prisons and guards, and within that matrix are all sorts of mistakes, the structures clogged and overwhelmed. Altogether, it is a system that metes out an imperfect justice at best.