Roger Ballen is one of the most important and influential photographers of the 21st century, he has a trajectory of almost 40 years. His images are extreme and extraordinary, they confront whoever looks at them and challenge them to join Balen on the to explore the depths of their minds.
Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950, however he has lived in South Africa for over 30 years. His work as geologist took him to the field and along with his camera he started to explore the world of the small towns there. Then, he took the plunge o reach people, he knocked their houses and discover a world that forever changed his work vision. Those interiors, with their particular collections and inhabitants, shaped his photographic production and led it to a path that wnt from a social critic to the creation of metaphors that shake the mind. Ever since 1994 he stopped looking for the subjects of his photography in the field, but close to the place where he lives, Johannesburg.
Throughout the years, his style has developed by using the black and white format. In his firsts works his connection with documentary photography is noticeable, which he changed and, in the nineties, adopted a new style that he called “Documentary Fiction”. After 2000, the people he met in the peripheries of South Africa, and that we see in his photographs, collaborated as a cast of actors and created powerful psychodramas that resulted in the Outland and Shadow Chamber series.
In his series Boarding House and Asylum of the Birds (published by Thames and Hudson in the Spring of 2014) the line between reality and fantasy fades and incorporates drawing, painting, collages and sculpture to create very elaborated scenes. Often people tend to be completely absent in their photographs and instead appear props, portraits, mannequin parts, or real models from who we only see a certain part of their body: feet and mouths peeping disturbingly through walls or pieces of cloth. The scenes are usually improvised and are completed by the shots of the unpredictable behavior of the animals that are in the rooms which are crucial for the images final result. Ballen created a new hybrid aesthetic in this work strongly related to black and white photography.
These retrospective covers three decades of work, culminating in the following books : Dorps, Small Towns of South Africa, 1986, Platteland, Images from Rural South Africa, 1994, Outland, 2000, Shadow Chamber, 2005, Boarding House, 2009, Asylum of the Birds, 2014 and Theatre of Apparitions, september 2016.
In addition, the exhibit will include some videos by Roger Ballen, specifically I Fink U Freeky, which has more than 80 million views on YouTube, Asylum of the Birds, Theater of the Mind and Outland.
Rodrigo Campuzano, Curatorship
We thank the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo for its support.
September 2016 to January 2017.