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Down & Out in the South

'Down and Out in the South' is a portrait series of homeless men and women Jan Banning encountered in South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi in 2010 and 2011. The project started in September 2010, when the 701 Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Columbia, South Carolina, invited him to be an artist-in-residence. A board member of the CCA suggested homelessness as a possible subject matter for Jan to explore through photography during this residency. Initially, he was skeptical because society's outcasts have been photographed all too often. What could he add or contribute to existing images. After thinking the project over for some time, however, he came up with a different approach: to photograph people who are homeless as he would photograph any other member of society. This meant that Jan would avoid looking for the most photogenic people, with their signature beards and hats, and leaving out the typical paraphernalia, such as shopping carts and sleeping bags. This approach also entailed not photographing them in dramatic black and white, a visual language so often associated with portraits of homelessness. Instead of presenting them as 'The Other', and thus, by default, different from us, he wanted to photograph them in a studio setting, against a neutral backdrop, focusing on their individuality rather than on stereotypes. In essence, he want to show who they are rather than how they are labelled by others.

He set up makeshift studios in offices and the rooms of organisations working with homeless people in Columbia, SC, Atlanta, GA., and in the Mississippi Delta. Working in three different environments a medium-sized city, the southern metropolis and a few rural towns in three southern states was meant to give a broad spectrum of homeless people in the southern United States. In total, Jan photographed about 100 homeless men and women. Of those, 42 portraits were selected for this project, which has now been published as a book and is available from Jan's website -
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