Traces of War

Traces of War, Survivors of the Burma and Sumatra railways – Photos by Jan Banning
December 7th 2007– March 2nd 2008.

During WWII, the Japanese built a railway near the Burmese-Thai border, as well as one on the island of Sumatra. To this end, they used both Allied prisoners of war and local Asians. The latter were the so-called romushas, civilians pressed into service. The living and working conditions of these forced laborers werd abominable. Over 60,000 Allied prisoners of war worked on the 414 kilometers-long Burma railroad. Many did not survive this ordeal.

Portraits with an accompanying interview of twenty four survivors
More than half a century later, photographer Jan Banning went in search of the aftermath of the war bij exploring the consequences of these experiences of individual survivors. His project Traces of War consists of photographic portraits with an accompanying interview of twenty four survivors, men who worked as forced laborers on these railroads. These survivors comprise sixteen former prisoners of war of whom fifteen are Dutch and one is Indonesian, as well as eight Indonesian former romushas living on Sumatra and Java. They have been photographed bare-chested, the way they worked during the war.
Highly personal
This project is highly personal: Banning’s grandfather worked on the Burma railway and his father worked on the Sumatra line. Banning’s father is one of the 24 portrayed men.

Permanent exhibition on the Dutch East-Indies
In 2005 the Dutch Resistance Museum opened a permanent exhibition on the Dutch East-Indies at the time of the Japanese occupation. On the 66th memorial of the war in the Pacific the museum shows Banning’s photographic portraits.

Jan Banning
Jan Banning (1954) is a historian and photographer, specializing in documentary photography. He published several photo books: Vietnam. Do Moi (about Vietnam); Pulang (about a Dutch-Indonesian family returning to Maluku) and Traces of War. Survivors of the Burma and Sumatra Railways. Apart from that, his photos have been published in many magazines and books.

He won a number of art and journalistic prizes, among them a first prize in the World Press Photo 2004 and the Prize of Prague 2004.

Book and exhibition
Book and exhibition  were made possible thanks to Stichting Fonds Anna Cornelis, Stichting Het Gebaar, Frans Banning, BGH Accountancy, Fonds Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten, Stichting Fondsenwerving Militaire Oorlogs- en Dienstslachtoffers  (SFMO), Mondriaan Stichting, NCDO, Nederlands Literair Productie- en Vertalingen Fonds, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and Taxus Holding en Management BV (Bosch en Duin).

Traces of War – Photos by Jan Banning