Banality, not unlike erosion, is the all pervasive power of the persistent, of the ever-insisting, of that which never cedes to act. And subtle powers both banality and erosion are – few things in life have such an enormous effect on us while remaining by and large unnoticed. While we are used to think about heroes and rulers and geniuses and how their actions impact the world, we rarely stop and think about how all life unfolds in seemingly small deeds and gestures. Hanna Arendt makes this point painfully clear in “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” for example by showing the complete lack of remorse or guilt in Adolf Eichmann; a man, who claimed that all he did was because he was doing his job and his duty; a bureaucrat executing orders – as simple as that.
How does one capture the banality that lurks in the corner of our eyes and hides in the grey corners of reality? How does one reveal the unique in the ordinary? The light in the mundane? How does one show banality’s beauty and its elusive nature?
I have no answers to these questions. What I do know though is that some photographers of great artistic capability have done it, and Harry Gruyaert holds a prime spot among them. With his trademark use of colour, brilliant compositions, and unobvious choice of subject matter, he invites us to
“…wonder at everyday scenes that completely shook him out of that comfort zone called familiarity; a revelation for him of how what was ordinary in one sense could be an eye-opener when color and form was seen afresh, as if for the first time.”https://www.lensculture.com/articles/harry-gruyaert-banality-can-be-beautiful#slideshow
And this is a journey worth taking for it expands our worlds and makes us look harder, deeper and wider and see what’s typically hidden from our attention.
Have a look at Harry Gruyaert’s profile on Magnum’s website for a great selection of his works: https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/harry-gruyaert/; or read a review of his retrospective book here: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/harry-gruyaert-banality-can-be-beautiful#slideshow.
My best wishes for a great day ahead.