All about photo: photo contests, photography exhibitions, galleries, schools, books and venues.
Roger Ballen
Roger and the Inner Voices, 2015. Portrait by Marguerite Rossouw
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen

Roger Ballen

Country: United States
Birth: 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's Video

Selected Books

Inspiring Portfolios

Call for Entries
Solo Exhibition June 2022
Win an Online Solo Exhibition in June 2022
 
Stay up-to-date  with call for entries, deadlines and other news about exhibitions, galleries, publications, & special events.

More Great Photographers To Discover

Shinya Arimoto
Shinya Arimoto, 1971, Japan, is a conceptual documentary photographer who studied at the School of Visual Arts in Osaka. Within his body of work there is a lot of street photography containing images of structures, objects, women and homeless people. In contrast to a lot of other street photographers he does not just snap his camera but carefully creates the images showing a photographer who communicates with his subjects. The world he shows us is chaotic and vibrant yet he manages to create a sense of calm within his photographs. His story-telling images are well-composed, sensitive and intimate. His work has been exhibited on numerous occasions in Japan. Source: 500photographers.blogspot.com Interview With Shinya Arimoto AAP: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer? Shinya Arimoto: After viewing Masatoshi Naito’s photo book TOKYO while in high school. Where did you study photography? I studied the photography at the School of Visual Arts in Osaka. My teacher at that time was the photographer Mr. Shunji Dodo. I have a high regard for him. Do you have a mentor or role model? Mr. Shunji Dodo has remained my teacher and mentor ever since my student days. How long have you been a photographer? It's been 20 years since I became the freelance photographer. Do you remember your first shot? What was it? I still remember when I spoke to a stranger for the first time on the street and took a photograph. What or who inspires you? The streets of Tokyo which are changing every day. How could you describe your style? Traditional street photography. Do you have a favorite photograph or series? It is a "ariphoto" series of ongoing. AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film? I use medium format film cameras. Mainly a Rolleiflex 2.8F, a Hasselblad 903SWC and a Mamiya RZ67. Do you spend a lot of time editing your images? For what purpose? Because the period between actually photographing my worn and exhibiting it is extremely short, the editing work is minimal. Favorite(s) photographer(s)? Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Bruce Davidson and Josef Koudelka. What advice would you give a young photographer? Just get out there and shoot on the street! What mistake should a young photographer avoid? Being inclined to think about “a concept” too much. An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share? The city of Tokyo which can be seen in my eyes is one of an ecosystem with magnificent circulation. What are your projects? Most recently I have been taking photographs of the small insect in the forest. Your best memory as a photographer? The days when I took traveled to Tibet with a camera when I was in my early 20's. Your worst souvenir as a photographer? Having 150 rolls of exposed film stolen in India... The compliment that touched you most? Timeless, Placeless. If you were someone else who would it be? A small insect. I want to look at the world from that point of view. Your favorite photo book? A Period of Juvenile Prosperity / Mike Brodie which I obtained is a favorite recently. An anecdote? I have held the exhibition currently in Paris. So I was very inspired to stay in Europe for the first time. I want to look into a lot of people Since the PHOTOQUAI is very interesting event. Anything else you would like to share? My gallery: Totem Pole Photo Gallery in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Don Hong-Oai
China
1929 | † 2004
Don Hong-Oai was born in Canton, China in 1929 as the youngest son to a business family and was raised and educated in Saigon, Vietnam. At age 13 he began an apprenticeship at a Chinese photo and portrait shop. In 1979 he immigrated to the United States and settled in Chinatown of San Francisco. Don began making a living by selling his landscape photographs in front of Macy’s and began to receive recognition for his craftsmanship. His style was heavily influenced by the legendary photographer Long Chin-San and his technique of layering negatives. By taking three negatives, foreground, middle ground, and far ground, and selecting a subject from each negative, Don would form one composite image of a serene landscape. All the various scenes in an image existed in reality, but each uniquely handcrafted photograph in its entirety is a concoction of the artist's imagination. Each photograph was assembled only by the artist himself thus he never had an assistant nor a master printer like some photographers. His work has won scores of international awards and has been collected worldwide. Sadly, Don passed away in San Francisco in 2004. Don was born in Canton, China in 1929 and spent most of his life in Vietnam. As a young boy in Saigon he apprenticed at a photography studio. When he was not at the studio, he traveled and took photographs of the landscape. He stayed in Vietnam through the war, but fled by boat to California in 1979. He lived in San Francisco’s Chinatown where he had a small darkroom to create his photographs. While living the US he returned to China every few years to make new negatives. Only in the last few years of his life was his work discovered by a wider public, and he was kept very busy making prints for collectors across the US and elsewhere. Don died in June 2004. The photographs of Don Hong-Oai are made in a unique style of photography, which can be considered Asian pictorialism. This method of adapting a Western art for Eastern purposes probably originated in the 1940s in Hong Kong. One of its best known practitioners was the great master Long Chin-San (who died in the 1990s at the age of 104) with whom Don Hong-Oai studied. With the delicate beauty and traditional motifs of Chinese painting (birds, boats, mountains, etc.) in mind, photographers of this school used more than one negative to create a beautiful picture, often using visual allegories. Realism was not a goal. Don Hong-Oai was one of the last photographers to work in this manner. He is also arguably the best. He has won hundreds of awards given by photography societies throughout Asia and by international juries of Kodak and Nikon. Source: www.gallery71.com
David Vasilev
David Vasilev was born in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria in 1981, where he spent his early years. Ever since he was a little kid, he was always surrounded by photojournalists, his dad being one of them. This had a great impact on his perception of the world, thus photography become a necessary tool for self-expression. After he moved to the United States he begun his extensive journey to find inspiration in the cultural contrasts of North America. To observe is to spend more time looking through the lens than photographing. That is how I catch elusive moments of reality in a single frame. Growing up in a culturally mixed neighborhood in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, defined me as a person and as a photographer. I’ve captured the raw human spirit in people distanced from society—the joy and sadness they feel just by surviving, alongside the simplicity we lack. I follow my instincts without looking back, which has led me to fascinating places. I’ve visited forgotten parts of the United States, time capsules filled with pure instinct and the most archaic traces of human nature still intact. In one excursion I visited the Hutterites—a German-speaking colony located in the prairies of the Dakotas. I felt their sincere hospitality instantly, even when they couldn't understand why I was there to begin with or what photography even was. They maintained a humble existence that I wanted to preserve on film. With time, they got used to me being there, and my presence was gradually ignored. Only then did I witness and photograph their essence: the realness of their daily lives, creating a visual memory of this time and place. I will never forget the children. One day a girl with curious eyes approached me quietly and asked, "Have you seen the ocean?" David Vasilev
Eva Mallis
United States
Eva Mallis was born in New York City to Greek immigrant parents. Her elementary school years were spent in Queens, New York - the most ethnically diverse area in the U.S. - where she was immersed in a hardworking population striving for the American dream. Pursuing that dream, Eva earned a BA and an MBA and has had a career that encompassed investment banking and real estate. Eva's love of photography surfaced post-college while living in Washington, D.C. and attending photography classes at the Smithsonian Institute. Her passion for street photography grew as she often roamed the streets of downtown Washington, D.C. taking pictures during her lunch hour. After family and career, Eva resumed her passion for photography by taking several classes at the International Center for Photography (ICP) and numerous workshops around the globe. Eva is a New York City based street and documentary photographer. Her photography is best characterized as urban documentary. Eva's work has been shown in numerous group exhibitions in New York City. She has won PDN Magazine's 'Taste' Photo Competition, has received several International Photography Award (IPA) Honorable Mentions and has participated in many juried shows. Statement I am driven to photographing the human reality, taking a moment to observe, assess and capture sometimes insignificant moments in time. Photography sharpens my awareness of the mundane and the unnoticed. By capturing slivers of time - people going about their everyday - my visual slant forces the viewer to recognize the themes of life. I am attempting to thoughtfully communicate that which is too often unseen.
El Lissitzky
Russia
1890 | † 1941
Lazar Markovich Lissitzky, known as El Lissitzky, was a Russian artist, designer, photographer, typographer, polemicist and architect. He was an important figure of the Russian avant-garde, helping develop suprematism with his mentor, Kazimir Malevich, and designing numerous exhibition displays and propaganda works for the Soviet Union. His work greatly influenced the Bauhaus and constructivist movements, and he experimented with production techniques and stylistic devices that would go on to dominate 20th-century graphic design. Lissitzky's entire career was laced with the belief that the artist could be an agent for change, later summarized with his edict, "das zielbewußte Schaffen" (goal-oriented creation). Lissitzky, of Lithuanian Jewish оrigin, began his career illustrating Yiddish children's books in an effort to promote Jewish culture in Russia. When only 15 he started teaching, a duty he would maintain for most of his life. Over the years, he taught in a variety of positions, schools, and artistic media, spreading and exchanging ideas. He took this ethic with him when he worked with Malevich in heading the suprematist art group UNOVIS, when he developed a variant suprematist series of his own, Proun, and further still in 1921, when he took up a job as the Russian cultural ambassador to Weimar Germany, working with and influencing important figures of the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements during his stay. In his remaining years he brought significant innovation and change to typography, exhibition design, photomontage, and book design, producing critically respected works and winning international acclaim for his exhibition design. This continued until his deathbed, where in 1941 he produced one of his last works – a Soviet propaganda poster rallying the people to construct more tanks for the fight against Nazi Germany. In 2014, the heirs of the artist, in collaboration with Van Abbemuseum and leading worldwide scholars on the subject, established the Lissitzky Foundation in order to preserve the artist's legacy and to prepare a catalogue raisonné of the artist's oeuvre.Source: Tate Margarita Tupitsyn included the essays by Ulrich Pohlmann and Mathew Drutt in her book Beyond the Abstract Cabinet (1999). This book was aimed at an audience with an interest in Russian photography and modernism. The essays in this book brought Lissitzky’s work to limelight. The essays mention various aspect of his work. From 1922 to 1925, Lissitzky experimented with photograph collage and photograms. While working on photograms, Lissitzky experimented with photomontage as well. He was able to achieve vibrant compositions using several printing exposures in order to utilize the effects of transparency. These experiments help him in many advertisements he produced starting from 1924 until 1925. Lissitzky was among the first avant-gardists to revive the photogram or cameraless photographic image, combining this technique with experiments in montage to generate fantastic portraits and design proposals. Largely using photography, Lissitzky also rethought the illustrated book as an architectural form, to be tabbed through, unfolded in all directions, and made into a fully three-dimensional object. These many ideas were deployed in the service of artists and arts organizations, as well as, above all, institutions of the Soviet state, on whose behalf Lissitzky was committed to “influencing the human psyche” collectively and in the public realm. He survived the reversals of fortune suffered by so many politically committed artists in the 1930s but had chronically poor health and died of tuberculosis.Source: The Art Institute of Chicago
JB Russell
France/United States
1961
Born in Long Beach, California in 1961, J.B. Russell is a Paris-based documentary photographer, filmmaker and educator. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology and Geography and working for two years as a geologist, J.B. decided to take a year or two off to pursue a passion for photography and to satisfy a genetic predisposition for wanderlust. Once on the road however, he never looked back. He has worked extensively throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America focusing on current events, the human consequences of conflict, human rights, the environment and development issues. His work appears regularly in major print and on-line publications worldwide, including: Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, French GEO, Paris Match, Le Monde, Stern, Der Spiegel, Corriere della Sera magazine, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, El Mondo magazine and many more. J.B. collaborates frequently with international humanitarian organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Save The Children, Mines Advisory Group, The Global Fund and others to produce images, video and written material on critical humanitarian issues for their communication needs. His work has received numerous accolades, including the Public Prize at the Bayeux War Correspondents Competition, 1st place in the News Picture Story category of the POYi competition, his images have been selected on multiple occasions for the American Photography anthology, he received the Saint Brieuc Photoreporter Grant and his work has been exhibited and frequently featured at Visa Pour L'Image in Perpignan, France, among many other festivals and venues. J.B.'s career has spanned the transition from analogue to digital photography and the profound changes that the Internet and Social Media have had on journalism and the press. He believes that honest, engaged journalism remains crucial to public information in today's media landscape. J.B produces independent documentary photography and video projects, embracing diverse story-telling forms and platforms. He is a dedicated teacher of photography, teaching and speaking regularly in diverse university programs, workshops and photography courses. J.B. Russell is member of the Panos Pictures Agency and a core member of the Instagram collective #EverydayClimateChange.
Prescott Lassman
United States
1963
"I am an attorney by day and amateur photographer in my free time. Based in Washington, D.C., I focus mainly on black-and-white photography — somewhere between street and documentary with a strong dose of minimalism for good measure. I have a background in philosophy and try to incorporate it into my photography. One of my favorite philosophers, the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, has influenced me deeply. In fact, I view my photography as a Jungian exercise in synchronicity. Using an intuitive approach, I search for images that resonate, for moments of synchronicity in everyday life. Because this approach relies on unconscious triggers, my photographs are often richly symbolic, though their meaning is not immediately clear (at least not to me). For me, this is the essence of photography: capturing an image that resonates and then, over the course of months or years, figuring out why." Artist Statement Domesticated Animals is a multi-year project that explores the domestication that lies at the heart of domestic life. It started with a question that simply would not go away: "How did I become such a domesticated beast?" And then the natural follow up: "Is the domesticated life worth it?" These photographs are my attempt to answer these questions and make sense of my predicament — everyone’s predicament — by providing an unpolished glimpse of the myths we accept, the masks we are taught to wear, the roles we are forced to play, the needs and desires we sublimate (and sometimes don’t), and the tremendous pressures we face to conform in order to sustain our comfortable, domestic lives.
Advertisement
Solo Exhibition June 2022
POTW
Solo Exhibition June 2022

Latest Interviews

Exclusive Interview with  Diana Cheren Nygren
Diana Cheren Nygren is a fine art photographer from Boston, Massachusetts. Her work explores the relationship of people to their physical environment and landscape as a setting for human activity. Her photographs address serious social questions through a blend of documentary practice, invention, and humor.
Exclusive Interview with  Castro Frank
Castro Frank is a Los Angeles based visual artist who has translated his personal experiences of growing up in the San Fernando Valley into a signature journalistic and candid approach to photography.
Exclusive Interview with Emerald Arguelles
Emerald Arguelles is a photographer and editor based in Savannah, GA. As a young visual artist, Emerald has become an internationally recognized photographer through her explorations and capturing of Black America.
Exclusive Interview with  Dave Krugman
Dave Krugman is a New York based Photographer, Cryptoartist, and Writer, and is the founder of ALLSHIPS, a Creative Community based on the idea that a rising tide raises all ships. He is fascinated by the endless possibilities that exist at the intersection of art and technology, and works in these layers to elevate artists and enable them to thrive in a creative career. As our world becomes exponentially more visual, he seeks to prove that there is tremendous value in embracing curiosity and new ideas.
Exclusive Interview with  Lenka Klicperova
I first discovered Lenka Klicperová's work through the submission of her project 'Lost War' for the November 2021 Solo Exhibition. I chose this project for its strength not only because of its poignant subject but also for its humanist approach. I must admit that I was even more impressed when I discovered that it was a women behind these powerful front line images. Her courage and dedication in covering difficult conflicts around the world is staggering. We asked her a few questions about her life and work.
Exclusive Interview with  James Hayman
James Hayman is a photographer as well as a film / television director, producer, and cinematographer based in Los Angeles. We asked him a few questions about his life and work.
Exclusive Interview with John Simmons
John Simmons is a multi-talented artist whose work has spanned across decades. Born in Chicago and coming of age during the Civil Rights Era, Simmons' photography started at the peak of political and racial tension of the 1960s, mentored by a well known Chicago Civil Rights photographer, Bobby Sengstacke.
Exclusive Interview with Nick Brandt About The Day May Break
Photographed in Zimbabwe and Kenya in late 2020, The Day May Break is the first part of a global series portraying people and animals impacted by environmental degradation and destruction. An ambitious and poetic project picturing people who have all been badly affected by climate change - some displaced by cyclones that destroyed their homes, others such as farmers displaced and impoverished by years-long severe droughts. We asked Nick Brandt a few questions about the project.
Exclusive Interview with Barbara Cole
For the last forty-five years, artist Barbara Cole has been recapturing the otherworldly mysteries of early photography in a body of work that flows in and out of time.
Call for Entries
Solo Exhibition June 2022
Win an Online Solo Exhibition in June 2022