“The art of Roger Ballen is impossible to forget. It goes deep. Gets at places we didn’t know were there. Maybe hoped weren't there. It makes us wild. It opens us up to those uncertain, shocking and frighteningly banal aspects of the waking dream, twitching between animal and human, the clean and the unclean, the animate and the inanimate, the lived and the imagined, the natural and the performed.(…)
Ballen is not a photographer for whom standard divisions like subject and object, motif and background, make any sense: the drizzle and lilt of a wire, the shuffle of a shoe, the smear of sand on a wall are as important to the reading of the work, to its distinct power, as gestures more humanly communicative like a smile or grimace. This expanded pictorial focus produces a kind of animism where objects that might be mute in another photographer’s work speak in a chaotic and compelling tongue, making even the most ostensibly naturalistic image more sur-real than real. (…)
Ultimately, therefore, the work of Roger Ballen is a form of radical, disquieting subjectivism, a psychology of the world itself that represents the inside of politics, the inside of ideology, the inside of ourselves. “
- Robert Cook, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of Western Australia (full text here)
Roger Ballen was born in New York City in 1950. He has lived and worked in Johannesburg, South Africa for nearly 30 years. Ballen’s work has been shown in important institutions throughout the world and is represented in many Museum Collections such as Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England and Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA, as well as Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark.
Puppies in fishtanks, 2000, from the series Shadow Chamber, Silver Gelatin Print, 40 x 40 cm, ed. 35
Sergeant F. de Bruin, Department of Prisons employee, Orange Free State, 1992, from the series Platteland, Silver Gelatin Print, 40 x 40 cm, ed. 35