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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.
 

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More Great Photographers To Discover

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Bill Brandt
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Four of my personal essays were incorporated into the presentation, allowing a psychoanalytical exploration into the parallels between this photographic record and South Africa's dynamics and process of change. I have participated in various mentorship programs, supporting students from South African photographic institutions: Tierney Fellowship winners from the University of the Witwatersrand (2018/2019) and the Market Photo Workshop (2015/2016). As well as candidates from the Photographer incubator Program in 2016. Learn more about Graeme Williams on videos: Victoria and Albert Museum Photography and Democracy South African Studios Dwell in Possibility opening Check out Graeme Williams's interview about his latest project America Revisited Discover Graeme Williams' Interview
Keiichi Tahara
Japan
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J.M. Golding
United States
J. M. Golding is a photographic artist based in the San Francisco Bay area. She chooses plastic, pinhole, and vintage film cameras as her primary tools: plastic cameras such as the Holga for the spontaneity they promote and their capacity to help create dreamlike images, pinhole cameras for their simplicity and their contemplative quality, and vintage film cameras for the subjectivity of the images that are possible. J. M.'s photographs have been shown internationally in numerous juried and invitational group exhibitions, and she is the recipient of the 2013 Holga Inspire Award, the Lúz Gallery Curator's Choice Award (2009), Best of Show in Wanderlust (Dickerman Prints, 2017, in collaboration with Al Brydon), and several Honorable Mentions in other juried exhibitions. Her work has also appeared in Black & White, Diffusion, Shots, F-Stop, Square, and Insight magazines, Inside the Outside, Don't Take Pictures, The Holga Darkroom, and The Shot and in two books of pinhole photographs. She has been profiled in LensCulture, F-Stop Magazine, Wobneb Magazine, Mother F-Stop, Toycamera.es, and Pinholista. About Transitional Landscapes These photographs contain transitions from outer landscape to inner, from objective landscape to subjective. Square frames of film that are typically separate join together to form new, integrated images that would not have been possible otherwise, wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts, landscapes that are simultaneously real and imaginary. In this way, and also by transcending the literal separation of the component scenes, they allude to psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott's concept of the transitional object. The photographs embody the eye's transitions across the scene, moving incrementally from one perspective to another as they take on and combine multiple points of view. Because the overlapping exposures used to create the images are made sequentially, as compared to the single moment typically seen in photographs, the series of exposures in each image portrays transitions in time from one moment to the next, creating a connection between past and present, and possibly, present and future. Although the time and distance traversed are in many ways small, the transitions across them create surprising changes in what is visible.
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