Belgian, b. 1948
John Vink studied photography at the fine arts school of La Cambre in Brussels in 1968. He is a freelance journalist since 1971.
Like several photojournalists who came to maturity in the 80s, Vink became impatient with the apocalyptic stories published in magazines about the developing world. Instead of thinking of history in black-and-white terms, Vink reconceptualizes the coverage of other, foreign places, revealing that their cultures are already familiar to the viewer, because they’re part of the total fabric of the world. The photographer, just another participant in the daily round, plays the important role of making introductions.
Since the mid-1980s Vink has dedicated much time to long-term projects, the first of which was on Italy, between 1984 and 1988. Vink came to public attention in 1986 when he was awarded the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Award in Humanistic Photography for Waters in Sahel, a two-year documentary project on water management involving migrant and sedentary populations of the Niger, Mali, Burkina-Faso and Senegal.
Vink joined Vu agency in Paris in 1986, then from 1987 to 1993 worked on Refugees in the World, an extensive statement about life in the refugee camps of India, Mexico, Thailand, Pakistan, Hungary, Iraq, Malawi, Bangladesh, Turkey, Sudan, Croatia, Honduras and Angola. The series was then published in book and CD-ROM form and became the subject of an exhibit at Paris’s Centre National de la Photographie. In 1993 Vink became a nominee at Magnum Photos, and a full member in 1997.
Until 2000 he works on ‘Peuples d’en Haut’, which chronicles community life in mountainous regions of Guatemala, Laos and the Georgian Caucasus. In this work, begun in 1993, he stresses how the mountains, which make for difficult living conditions in relative isolation, have built strong people aware of their cultural identity.
Wishing to concentrate on one country instead of continuously travelling, he was based in Cambodia from 2000 to 2016, a country he visits since 1989. He documented land issues all over Cambodia but also covered other social issues as well as the Khmer Rouge trial. He is based in Brussels (Belgium) since 2016 and left Magnum in June 2017.