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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.
 

Roger Ballen's Video

Selected Books

Inspiring Portfolios

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More Great Photographers To Discover

Joseph Koudelka
Czech Republic
1938
Josef Koudelka was born in 1938 in Boskovice, Moravia. He began photographing his family and the surroundings with a 6 x 6 Bakelite camera. He studied at the Czech Technical University in Prague (CVUT) between 1956 and 1961, receiving a Degree in Engineering in 1961. He staged his first photographic exhibition the same year. Later he worked as an aeronautical engineer in Prague and Bratislava. He began taking commissions from theatre magazines, and regularly photographed stage productions at Prague's Theatre Behind the Gate on a Rolleiflex camera. In 1967, Koudelka decided to give up his career in engineering for full-time work as a photographer. He had returned from a project photographing gypsies in Romania just two days before the Soviet invasion, in August 1968. He witnessed and recorded the military forces of the Warsaw Pact as they invaded Prague and crushed the Czech reforms. Koudelka's negatives were smuggled out of Prague into the hands of the Magnum agency, and published anonymously in The Sunday Times Magazine under the initials P. P. (Prague Photographer) for fear of reprisal to him and his family. His pictures of the events became dramatic international symbols. In 1969 the "anonymous Czech photographer" was awarded the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa Gold Medal for photographs requiring exceptional courage. With Magnum to recommend him to the British authorities, Koudelka applied for a three-month working visa and fled to England in 1970, where he applied for political asylum and stayed for more than a decade. In 1971 he joined Magnum Photos. A nomad at heart, he continued to wander around Europe with his camera and little else. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Koudelka sustained his work through numerous grants and awards, and continued to exhibit and publish major projects like Gypsies (1975) and Exiles (1988). Since 1986, he has worked with a panoramic camera and issued a compilation of these photographs in his book Chaos in 1999. Koudelka has had more than a dozen books of his work published, including most recently in 2006 the retrospective volume Koudelka. Koudelka has won awards such as the Prix Nadar (1978), a Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1989), a Grand Prix Cartier-Bresson (1991), and the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (1992). Significant exhibitions of his work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography, New York; the Hayward Gallery, London; the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam; and the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. He and his work received support and acknowledgment from his friend the French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson. He was also supported by the Czech art historian Anna Farova. In 1987 Koudelka became a French citizen, and was able to return to Czechoslovakia for the first time in 1991. He then produced Black Triangle, documenting his country's wasted landscape. Koudelka resides in France and Prague and is continuing his work documenting the European landscape. He has two daughters and a son. Source: Wikipedia
Larry Louie
Canada
1961
International award winning documentary photographer Larry Louie leads a dual career. In his optometry clinic, he is Dr. Larry Louie, working to enhance the vision of people from all walks of life in the urban core of a North American city. On his travels, he is a humanitarian documentary photographer, exploring the lives of remote indigenous people, and documenting social issues around the world. As an optometrist, Larry adjusts people’s visual perception. As a photographer, he seeks to adjust people’s view of the world. Either way, he is interested in things that exist outside the regular field of vision. Larry’s photographs have often been described as realism at its best. There is a story waiting to be told in every image. Sarah Cho, competition director of the IPA/Lucie Awards describes Larry’s photographs as “captivating and sincere and reflect his passion for the medium,” adding, “Larry Louie has a very distinctive style, straddling the fine line of a photo journalist and documentarian. His images are as rich and evocative as the subjects (on) which he focuses.” His photographs show the strength and perseverance that mark people the world over, revealing the light sometimes found in dark places. Larry' s work to document the lives of people around the world has resulted in a vast archive of images. His work has received international recognition and awards including the IPA Lucie Award; National Geographic Photo Essay Award; and Humanitarian Documentary Grant with the World Photography. As an optometrist and photographer, Larry is avid supporter of Seva Canada, an international non-profit organization who is a part of VISION 2020, the global initiative for the elimination of preventable and avoidable blindness in the world by year 2020. Source: www.larrylouie.com Interview with Larry Louie All About Photo: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer? Larry Louie: I knew when I was about 16 when I received my first real camera and I was experimenting exposures. AAP: Where did you study photography? LL: Self taught. AAP: Do you have a mentor or role model? LL: I do not have a mentor, but I have master photographers whose work I greatly admire and I study their amazing portfolio of works: Josef Koudelka, Sebastiao Salgado, James Natchwey. AAP: How long have you been a photographer? LL: I have been regularly photographing since 18 years of age but in regards to the documentary work, only for the last 8 years. AAP: Do you remember your first shot? What was it? LL: My first shot that I liked was the color image of 2 women taken in Jodphur, India. I call it the Blue City image because of the predominating blue color of the city. This image was placed second in a National Geographic Traveler magazine photo competition. AAP: What or who inspires you? LL: Great work that has passion in the subject. That is why I like the works of the above artists I mentioned. AAP: How could you describe your style? LL: I like B&W documentary work that evokes one's curiosity about mankind and his struggle with the surrounding environment. AAP: Do you have a favorite photograph or series? LL: I like 2 of my latest series: "A Working Day in Dhaka" and my latest series "Tondo, Manila" (will be up on the web within this month). AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film? LL: I use Canon 5D Mark3 bodies, 24mm f1.4 prime lens, 85mm f/1.2 prime lens, and 24-105mm f/4 zoom lens. AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images? For what purpose? LL: I don't do too much editing. I do not crop my images and very minimal photoshop besides converting it into black and white and some burning and dodging. I do most of my editing the week after I return on a trip. The images are used for my website, to produce prints, calendars for fund raising purposes. AAP: What are your projects? LL: Please go to my website. My latest projects have been concentrated on the working poor and people who are stuck in the bonds of poverty, especially children born into poverty and child laborers. AAP: Favorite(s) photographer(s)? LL: Josef Koudelka, Sebastiao Salgado, James Natchwey. AAP: What advice would you give a young photographer? LL: Photograph what gives you passion. The best work will come through. Shoot, shoot, shoot. AAP: What mistake should a young photographer avoid? LL: Being cliché. One should be original. AAP: An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share? LL: My wife and I are working presently with an organization named "Philippines Community Fund" whose goal is through education to enable a generation of children to escape from the cycle of poverty to which they are born into, and in doing so create a better and more sustainable life for them and their family. PCF today funs a four storey school in Tondo, Manila providing education, food, healthcare, and other support services for nearly 600 children from the nearby garbage dump and cemetery. AAP: Your best memory as a photographer? LL: To be able to help and raise funds and bring attention to issues that makes a significant difference in the lives of the people we photograph. AAP:The compliment that touched you most? LL: A thank you and a smile from the people who we touched during our visits and who in return touched us with their graciousness. AAP:If you were someone else who would it be? LL: I am happy with who I am and what I do. AAP: Your favorite photo book? LL: "The Sahel" by Sabastiao Salgado. AAP: Anything else you would like to share? LL: No, I would like to thank you for your interest in my photography.
Trine Søndergaard
Trine Søndergaard is a Danish visual artist and contemporary photographer. Søndergaard studied drawing and painting in Aalborg and Copenhagen from 1992 to 1994 and attended the photography school Fatamorgana in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 2000 the artist received the Albert Renger Patzsch Award and has since received numerous grants and fellowships, including a three-year working grant from The Danish Arts Foundation. Søndergaard's work has been featured in many group and solo exhibitions. The artist is represented in major public and private collections in many countries including Spain, the United States, Sweden, Israel, and Denmark. Additionally, Søndergaard has completed public commissions for both museums and cultural institutions.Source: Wikipedia Trine Søndergaard is a Danish photo-based artist, born 1972 in Grenaa. She studied drawing and painting in Aalborg and Copenhagen from 1992 to 1994, and later attended Fatamorgana – School of Art Photography in Copenhagen. Her photographic works are marked by a precision and sensibility that co-exist with an investigation of the medium of photography itself, its boundaries and what constitutes an image. Her photography is grounded in an objective and documentary attitude, heightened through both reduction and poetic narratives. A central theme in Trine Søndergaard’s oeuvre is vision and the gaze. She utilises a circular visual poetics, in which motifs and phrases from earlier works create meaningful connections. This takes place in a spirit of both playfulness and contemplation, in a balance between the spontaneous and the precise, the planned and the accidental. Trine Søndergaard’s work is layered with meaning and quiet emotion, and her work often revolves around existential questions that are equally personal and universal. Søndergaard’s work explores what it means to be human, and while her work is often initiated by a personal angle, it also contains an overall exploration of more general phenomas related to historical, cultural and gender related questions. In 2000, Trine Søndergaard received the Albert Renger Patzsch Award and has since received numerous grants and fellowships, including the Anne Marie Telmányi’s honorary award for female artists. Søndergaard’s work has been featured in many international group and solo exhibitions, most recently at Dunkers Kulturhus, Gl. Holtegaard and Gothenburg Art Museum. She is represented in major public and private collections all over the world and has completed public commissions for both museums and cultural institutions. Trine Søndergaard currently lives and works in Copenhagen.Source: Martin Asbæk Gallery
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AAP Magazine #22: Streets
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Solo Exhibition December 2021

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