Roger Ballen

American/South African, 1950–present

One of the most influential and important photographic artists, Ballen’s photographs span over fifty years. Making a powerful commentary about the human condition and its creative potential, 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.

Born in New York and living in South Africa for over 38 years, Ballen’s distinctive style of photography has evolved using a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. He developed a style he describes as ‘documentary fiction’.

After 2009 the line between fantasy and reality in his subsequent series became increasingly blurred and he employed drawings, painting, collage and sculptural techniques to create elaborate sets. 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. Ballen has created a well known aesthetic defined as “Ballenesque”.

Ballen directed the music video I Fink You Freeky, created for the cult band Die Antwoord in 2012. 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. The following year, the exhibition The World According to Roger Ballen opened in Halle Saint Pierre in Paris. Publications include Ballenesque Roger Ballen: A Retrospective (Thames & Hudson, 2017).