John Vink Biography

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.


1968 Photography, La Cambre University, Brussels


2016 'Belgium As It Was', Karmelietenklooster, Brugge, Belgium
2016 ‘Belgium', 44Gallery, Brugge, Belgium
2015 ‘Hearths of Resistance’, Amnesty International, Brussels, Belgium
2014 ‘Hearths of Resistance’, Brugge, Belgium
2014 ‘Hearths of Resistance’, Noorderlicht, Groningen, Netherlands
2014 ‘Vintage Prints’, 44Gallery, Brugge, Belgium
2013 ‘Better Factories’, walls of the French Embassy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
2013 ‘Quest for Land’ Metahouse, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
2010 'Cambodia Retrospective', Bophana Center, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
2009 '30 Years for a Trial', Chinese House, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
2008 'Absence of Architecture', Metahouse, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
2008 'Peuples d’en Haut', Aosta, Italy
2006 'Poids Mouche', Phnom Penh, Cambodia
2005 'Peuples d'en Haut', Luang Prabang, Laos
2001 'Can We Feed Ourselves', UN building, New York
1996 'D'Autres Mondes', Gap, France
1995 'Réfugiés': MSF, Brussels, Belgium; Fotomuseum, Antwerpen, Belgium; Foire du Livre, Geneva, Switzerland
1994 'Indochines' - Galerie Focale, Nyon, Switzerland
1994 'Réfugiés', Centre National de la Photographie, Paris, France
1993 'Best of', Galerie de V. Verhaeren, Brussels, Belgium
1990 'Réfugiés', Triennale de Charleroi, France
1990 'Eaux du Sahel', Almeria, Spain
1989 'Italies', Expo Porte-Folio, Maison de la Culture d'Amiens, France
1988 'Eaux du Sahel' and 'Réfugiés', Belgisches Haus, Cologne, Germany; Overpoort, Gent, Belgium
1987 'La Petite Reine des Belges', Torino, Italy
1987 'Tour de France', La Sellerie, Aurillac, France
1987 'Eaux du Sahel', Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, Arles, France
1986 'Tour de France', Maison de la Culture, Amiens, France
1984 'Photographie Ouverte', Charleroi, France; Galerie Contraste, Brussels, Belgium; Galerij XYZ, Gent, Belgium
1979 I.S.E.L.P., Brussels
1977 Galerie Aspects, Brussels; Galerij t'Venster, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Breiting Galerie, Berlin, Germany
1976 Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
1975 Wilde Fotogalerie, Cologne, Germany
1973 Wilde Fotogalerie, Cologne, Germany


2014 EBook ’A Fine Thread’ for the iPad, self-published (
2013 EBook ’30 Years for a Trial’ for the iPad, self-published (
2013 EBook ‘Royal Silence’ for the iPad, self-published (
2013 EBook ‘Same Same’ for the iPad, self-published (
2012 'Quest for Land', an iApp about land issues available through iTunes at:
2010 'Inside' (ISBN 978-80-97036-4-8), Magna Children at Risk, Slovakia

2009 'Altri Monti, Altri Mondi' (ISBN 978-88-95586-11-3), Liaison, Italy

2006 ‘I Grandi Fotografi’, Hachette.

2006 ‘Poids Mouche’ (ISBN-13: 978-99950-75-00-2), ed. Du Mékong, Phnom Penh
2004 ‘Peuples d’en Haut’ (ISBN: 2-7467-0536-2), ed. Autrement, Paris
2000 ‘Avoir 20 Ans à Phnom Penh’ (ISBN: 2-86227-262-0), ed. Alternatives, Paris
1994 ‘Réfugiés’ (ISBN: 2-86754-089-5), coll. ‘Photo Notes’ ed. Centre National de la Photographie, Paris