Photographer Profile ~ Roger Ballen

Born in New York City in 1950, Roger Ballen has lived and worked in Johannesburg, South Africa for almost 30 years. The son of a picture editor at Magnum, he worked as a geologist and mining consultant before starting his own photographic career by documenting the small villages of rural South Africa and their isolated inhabitants. His images are both powerful social statements and disturbing psychological studies. Ballen's previous book Outland (Phaidon, 2001) is of the most extraordinary photographic documents of the late twentieth century.

Roger Ballen has exhibited widely, and his work is held in the collection of museums and institutions including but not limited to Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Fotomuseum, Munich; Johannesburg Art Museum; Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg; and Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

*Click on images for a larger view*

The Story Behind the Platteland Twins Photograph: 
 "I was driving around a town in the Western Transvaal in 1993 with my wife and children looking for photographs. Upon turning into a street, I noticed what I believed to be an interesting subject working in the garden. I stopped and asked Dresie if I could photograph him. He walked to the verandah of his where his mother and sister were sitting. I asked them for permission to photograph Dresie. As I lifted my camera to photograph Dresie against the verandah wall, a shadow appeared from behind. As I turned my head Dresie’s twin brother Casie appeared. His shirt was clean, as unlike Dresie, he worked inside the house."  ~ Ballen

"My photographs over the past ten years have been interactive in nature, developing one step at a time. The scenarios that define “The Roger Ballen Aesthetic” occur through working with the people, animals and the objects of the places that I photograph in.
Most importantly photography is about catching instant that cannot be repeated. This moment almost always evolves spontaneously."
 ~ Ballen

"My photographs are the result of the way that I conceptualize ‘photographic reality’ and my images consist of thousands of parts that have been transformed through my conscious and subconscious mind." ~ Ballen

"I have been passionate about taking photographs for nearly fifty years. Up to fifteen years ago my photographs were primarily taken for myself and I saw it as a hobby rather than profession. I certainly did not see myself as an artist. 
My photographs are ultimately psychological in nature and can be elucidated through an understanding of Jungian psychology. Many people comment that my images are ‘dark.’ For me the dark side has always been a source of light and energy. I often mention to people that that one cannot find light without knowing the dark." ~ Ballen

"Every time one takes a photograph one is documenting something. The fundamental issue ultimately for me is the depth of meaning that an image expresses and whether the photograph becomes lodged in my mind. I am not very concerned about whether the image is truthful or not, as all photography is ultimately subjective in nature."  ~ Ballen

*double click center of this video to play full screen (smoother playing)*

Music Video Directed by Ballen

Portraits of DIE ANTWOORD by Roger Ballen:

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