Power of Europe's boardooms captured in new book

Fri Jan 20, 2012 2:30pm EST
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By Liza Foreman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For 15 years, New York-based Dutch photographer Jacqueline Hassink has been making her mark with global art projects, covering subjects as diverse as Haute Couture fitting rooms in Paris, the gardens of Kyoto and the boardrooms of Europe's leading corporations.

Magnum photographer Martin Parr declared Hassink's "The Table of Power" (1996), in which she photographed the boardrooms of 40 multinational companies, one of the most important photo books of the 20th century. Her new sequel "The Table of Power 2," revisits companies from the 2009 Fortune Global 500 list, documenting the impact of the economic downturn.

Hassink recently spoke to Reuters about "The Table of Power 2" and another book "View, Kyoto." Publisher Hatje Cantz released "The Table of Power 2" in Europe and Asia on January 17. D.A.P. will publish the book in the U.S. in March 2012..

Q: You made "The Table of Power" sixteen years ago. What drew you to this topic and why did you revisit the subject?

A: "I took part in a photography workshop in Oslo in 1993 and I was asked to pick a Norwegian book and choose one word to work with. I chose "table" in Ibsen's play "Peer Gynt." I projected this taxonomy as a map onto the city of Oslo, then looked for other tables in Norwegian society. That led to the idea of creating a map of Europe, by photographing its most potent meeting places: the meeting tables of the boards of directors of Europe's largest corporations. I wanted to reveal the centers of economic power, the meeting tables where top executives were seated, making decisions upon which millions of people depend. In 2008 with the onset of the worst recession since the 1930s, I decided to look once again at Europe's economic landscape."

Q: What do tables reflect in business and society?

A: "Tables symbolize the core of our society. They are a fascinating symbol of how we organize our private and public lives. Within families, tables show a hierarchy. The father heads the table and the mother sits closest to the kitchen. In corporations, boardroom tables represent a similar power play. CEOs usually sit at an oval or rectangular table at the head, or in the middle of the longest stretch. Ideally they face the entrance, which is the most secure place in the room."

Q: How does the value of these companies compare with 16 years ago?   Continued...