Roger Ballen

American Photographer | Born: 1950

One of the most influential and important photographic artists of the 21st century, Roger Ballen's photographs span over forty years. His strange and extreme works confront the viewer and challenge them to come with him on a journey into their own minds as he explores the deeper recesses of his own.

Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950 but for over 30 years he has lived and worked in South Africa. His work as a geologist took him out into the countryside and led him to take up his camera and explore the hidden world of small South African towns. At first he explored the empty streets in the glare of the midday sun but, once he had made the step of knocking on people's doors, he discovered a world inside these houses which was to have a profound effect on his work. These interiors with their distinctive collections of objects and the occupants within these closed worlds took his unique vision on a path from social critique to the creation of metaphors for the inner mind. After 1994 he no longer looked to the countryside for his subject matter finding it closer to home in Johannesburg.

Over the past thirty five years his distinctive style of photography has evolved using a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. In the earlier works in the exhibition his connection to the tradition of documentary photography is clear but through the 1990s he developed a style he describes as 'documentary fiction'. After 2000 the people he first discovered and documented living on the margins of South African society increasingly became a cast of actors working with Ballen in the series' Outland (2000, revised in 2015) and Shadow Chamber (2005) collaborating to create powerful psychodramas.

The line between fantasy and reality in his subsequent series' Boarding House (2009) and Asylum of the Birds (2014) became increasingly blurred and in these series he employed drawings, painting, collage and sculptural techniques to create elaborate sets. There was an absence of people altogether, replaced by photographs of individuals now used as props, by doll or dummy parts or where people did appear it was as disembodied hands, feet and mouths poking disturbingly through walls and pieces of rag. The often improvised scenarios were now completed by the unpredictable behaviour of animals whose ambiguous behaviour became crucial to the overall meaning of the photographs. In this phase Ballen invented a new hybrid aesthetic, but one still rooted firmly in black and white photography.

In his artistic practice Ballen has increasingly been won over by the possibilities of integrating photography and drawing. He has expanded his repertoire and extended his visual language. By integrating drawing into his photographic and video works, the artist has not only made a lasting contribution to the field of art, but equally has made a powerful commentary about the human condition and its creative potential.

His contribution has not been limited to stills photography and Ballen has been the creator of a number of acclaimed and exhibited short films that dovetail with his photographic series'. The collaborative film I Fink You Freeky, created for the cult band Die Antwoord in 2012, has garnered over 125-million hits on YouTube. He has taken his work into the realms of sculpture and installation, at Paris' Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (2017), Australia's Sydney College of the Arts (2016) and at the Serlachius Museum in Finland (2015) is to name but a few. The spectacular installation at Les Rencontres d'Arles 2017, "House of the Ballenesque" was voted as one of the best exhibitions for 2017. In 2018 at the Wiesbaden Biennale, Germany, another installation "Roger Ballen's Bazaar/Bizarre" was created in an abandoned shopping centre.

Ballen's series, The Theatre of Apparitions (2016), is inspired by the sight of these hand-drawn carvings on blacked-out windows in an abandoned women's prison. Ballen started to experiment using different spray paints on glass and then 'drawing on' or removing the paint with a sharp object to let natural light through. The results have been likened prehistoric cave-paintings: the black, dimensionless spaces on the glass are canvases onto which Ballen has carved his thoughts and emotions. He also released a related animated film, Theatre of Apparitions, which has been nominated for various awards.

In September 2017 Thames & Hudson published a large volume of the collected photography with extended commentary by Ballen titled Ballenesque Roger Ballen: A Retrospective.
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen
Ballenesque
Author: Roger Ballen
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Year: 2017 - Pages: 336
Roger Ballen is best known for his psychologically powerful and intricately layered images that exist in a space between painting, drawing, installation, and photography. Ballenesque is the first comprehensive retrospective of his work.
Separated into four parts, Ballenesque takes readers on a chronological journey through Ballen's entire oeuvre, including both iconic images and previously unpublished works. Part I explores Ballen's formative artistic influences and his later rediscovery of boyhood through photography, culminating in his first published monograph, Boyhood, in 1979. Part II charts the period between 1980 and 2000, during which time he released his seminal monograph Outland. Part III covers the years 2000-2013, when Ballen achieved global recognition and his work began to veer away from portraiture altogether. Finally, in Part IV, Ballen reflects on his career.
With more than 300 photographs and an introduction by Robert JC Young, this book provides both a new way of seeing Ballen's work for those who already follow his career and a comprehensive introduction for those encountering his striking photographs for the first time.
 
Outland
Author: Roger Ballen
Publisher: Phaidon
Year: 2015 - Pages: 144
The seminal work by photographer and artist Roger Ballen, re‐released in an expanded edition with never‐before-seen images from Ballen’s archive.

The culmination of nearly 20 years of work, Outland marked Ballen’s move from documentary photography into the realms of fiction and propelled him into the international spotlight. Disturbing, exciting and impossible to forget, Ballen’s images captured people living on the fringes of South African society. His powerful psychological studies influenced a generation of artists and still resonate today.

First published in 2001, Outland is back in print and expanded to include 50 never‐before‐seen images from Ballen’s archive with illuminating new commentary from the artist himself.
 
Asylum of the Birds
Author: Roger Ballen
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Year: 2014 - Pages: 144
Roger Ballen is one of the most original image makers of the twenty-first century. Asylum of the Birds showcases his iconic photographs, which were all taken entirely within the confines of a house in a Johannesburg suburb, the location of which remains a tightly guarded secret. The inhabitants of the house, both people and animals, and most notably the ever-present birds, are the cast who perform within a sculptural and decorated theatrical interior that the author creates and orchestrates.
 
Boarding House
Author: Roger Ballen
Publisher: Phaidon
Year: 2009 - Pages: 128
Following on from the critical success of Outland and Shadow Chamber, Roger Ballen's previous books published by Phaidon, Boarding House features a new collection of photographs from this significant photographer.
 
The Theatre of Apparitions
Author: Roger Ballen
The Theatre of Apparitions is an immersive and groundbreaking new monograph by the critically acclaimed art photographer Roger Ballen.
The author of numerous publications, including Asylum of the Birds and Outland, Ballen is best known for his psychologically powerful and masterfully composed images that exist in a space between painting, drawing, installation, and photography. This book is both a departure from his existing oeuvre and the culmination of his unique aesthetic linking image-making and theatrical performance. Separated into seven chapters or "acts," these Ballenesque images take readers on a journey deep into the subconscious.
Initially inspired by the drawings and marks people make on their environment, Ballen started to experiment using different spray paints on glass and then "drawing on" or removing the paint with a sharp object to let natural light through. The resulting images are like prehistoric cave-paintings: the black, dimensionless spaces on the glass are canvases onto which Ballen carves his thoughts and emotions. Fossil-like facial forms and dismembered body parts co-exist uncomfortably with vaporous, ghost-like shadows-these images have the capacity to shock, inspire, amuse, and even elate viewers. Timeless and innovative, earthly and otherworldly, physical and spiritual, his work transcends the traditional concepts of photography.
 
David Bailey: SUMO
 
 

More Great Photographers To Discover

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
Nationality: Russian
Born: 1863 - Died: 1944
Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky (Russian, August 30, 1863 Russian Empire – September 27, 1944) was a Russian chemist and photographer. He is best known for his pioneering work in color photography of early 20th-century Russia.

Prokudin-Gorsky was born in the ancestral estate of Funikova Gora, in what is now Kirzhachsky District, Vladimir Oblast. His parents were of the Russian nobility, and the family had a long military history. They moved to Saint Petersburg, (…)
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
 
Robert Capa
Nationality: American
Born: 1913 - Died: 1954

Robert Capa (born Endre Friedmann; October 22, 1913 – May 25, 1954) was a Hungarian war photographer and photojournalist as well as the companion and professional partner of photographer Gerda Taro. He is considered by some to be the greatest combat and adventure photographer in history.

Capa fled political repression in Hungary when he was a teenager, moving to Berlin, where he enrolled in college. He witnessed the rise of Hitler, which led him to move to (…)
 
Tatsuo Suzuki
Nationality: Japanese
Born: 1965
Born in 1965 Tokyo, lives in Tokyo.
Started shooting in 2008.
Main Gear: Fuji X100S
2011:1x.com Photo Awards Honorable Mention (Street)
2012:Black and White Spider Awards 2nd Place (Portrait), Honorable Mention (Fashion)
PX3 Gold Awards (Press)
Israel Harvanism Street Contest 1st Place
2013:Urban Picnic Street Contest Top30 Finalist
PX3 SelfPortrait Contest Honorable Mention
PX3 3rd Place (Portrait), Gold (Portrait - (…)
Tatsuo Suzuki
Tatsuo Suzuki
Tatsuo Suzuki
Tatsuo Suzuki
Tatsuo Suzuki
Tatsuo Suzuki
Tatsuo Suzuki
Tatsuo Suzuki
 
Katharine Cooper
Nationality: South African
Born: 1978
Katharine Cooper, born 1978 in Grahamstown, in South Africa's Eastern Cape, moved at a young age to Zimbabwe, where she completed her schooling. In 1998, she moved to the United Kingdom to pursue her studies in photography, before finally landing at the Arles national school of photography, from which she graduated with honours in 2004, notably for her film "Family Archive". Katharine worked as in-house printer to photographer Lucien Clergue, in his Arles-based atelier, from (…)
Katharine Cooper
Katharine Cooper
Katharine Cooper
Katharine Cooper
Katharine Cooper
Katharine Cooper
Katharine Cooper
Katharine Cooper
 
Gabriele Viertel
Nationality: German
German fine art photographer, born near Cologne, Gabriele Viertel now lives and works in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
She grew up as the youngest of 3 children in a rural area with an extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. Inspired by her father, an avid filmmaker and amateur photographer, she took for the first time at the age of 14 his analogue camera to photograph the children of the family.
During the education in technical design, she worked as a (…)
Gabriele Viertel
Gabriele Viertel
Gabriele Viertel
Gabriele Viertel
Gabriele Viertel
Gabriele Viertel
Gabriele Viertel
Gabriele Viertel
 
Donell Gumiran
Nationality: Philippines
Donell Gumiran is a Design & Senior Art Director based in Dubai.
"Every time I press the shutter, it seems like it's an extension of my personality,"- Donell Gumiran. He sees himself as an image-maker who captures and tells a story in a photograph. The Filipino lensman sees his photography as an art form, borne from his desire to create on canvas and his professional training in design, when he worked as a design director in a creative agency. Now based in the U.A.E. (…)
Donell Gumiran
Donell Gumiran
Donell Gumiran
Donell Gumiran
Donell Gumiran
Donell Gumiran
Donell Gumiran
Donell Gumiran
 
Piotr Zbierski
Nationality: Polish
Piotr Zbierski - Studied photography at National Film School. Author of three individual exhibitions (White Elephants, Here, Love has to be reinvented), participant in collective exhibitions and publications including Photokina and Lab East. He presented his works in many countries like Poland, Germany, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia. As well as magazines (Shots Magazine, Ninja Mag, Archivo Zine, Die Nacht, Gup Magazine). In 2012 he won the prestigious prize for young (…)
Piotr Zbierski
Piotr Zbierski
Piotr Zbierski
Piotr Zbierski
Piotr Zbierski
Piotr Zbierski
Piotr Zbierski
Piotr Zbierski
 
Saul Leiter
Nationality: American
Born: 1923 - Died: 2013

Saul Leiter is an American photographer and painter whose early work in the 1940s and 1950s was an important contribution to what came to be recognized as The New York School. Saul Leiter was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father was a well known Talmud scholar and Saul studied to become a Rabbi. His mother gave him a Detrola camera at age 12. At age 23, he left theology school and moved to New York City to become an artist. He had developed an early interest in (…)
 
Maroesjka Lavigne
Nationality: Belgium
Born: 1989

Maroesjka Lavigne (b.1989, Belgium) gained her Masters in Photography at Ghent University in the summer of 2012. Her work has been shown internationally at the Foam Talent exhibition in Amsterdam, The Robert Mann Gallery in New York, Galerie Hug in Paris and Museum Saint Guislain in Gent, Belgium, among others. She self-published a book called ‘ísland’ in 2012 that sold out. In 2014 she published a postcard version of this book. In 2015 she made a commissioned work ‘(…)
Maroesjka Lavigne
Maroesjka Lavigne
Maroesjka Lavigne
Maroesjka Lavigne
Maroesjka Lavigne
Maroesjka Lavigne
Maroesjka Lavigne
Maroesjka Lavigne
 
Clay Lipsky
Nationality: American

From www.claylipsky.com
Clay Lipsky is a fine art photographer & Emmy Award winning graphic designer based in Los Angeles. He has applied his unique visual style across a variety of mediums, from print and multimedia to TV and film. Despite his varied interests, photography has always been a part of Clay’s life. Recently, he has experienced a new-found interest with the medium and is now (…)
Clay Lipsky
Clay Lipsky
Clay Lipsky
Clay Lipsky
Clay Lipsky
Clay Lipsky
Clay Lipsky
Clay Lipsky
 
David Bailey: SUMO
 
Join our newsletter
Be up-to-date with call for entries, deadlines and other news about exhibitions, galleries, publications, & special events
 
NEW! All About Photo Awards 2019 Magazine
All About Photo Awards 2019
 
 
 
The Jules Maeght Gallery is a contemporary art gallery who seeks to engage the San Francisco community by infusing European artists, young and established alike, into a diverse, multimedia dialogue.
 
TAKES U TO THE NEXT LEVEL
 
Since 2005, your guide through contemporary art from a French perspective to let you make exciting choices