Roger Ballen

Born in New York City in 1950, Roger Ballen has lived and worked in Johannesburg, South Africa for almost 30 years. During this period from 1982 to 2008 he has produced many series of works which has evolved from photo-journalism to a unique artistic vision. This exhibition tracks the development of his style which has made an important contribution to the visual arts. 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.

In the series Dorps: Small Towns of South Africa (1986) Ballen illustrates his love for architecture and interiors that seem to speak volumes about the inhabitants of these strangely familiar yet alien spaces. The next series of work is Platteland: Images from Rural South Africa (1994) in which Ballen focuses on the inhabitants of small rural towns and approaches his subjects with a combination of empathy and the unflinching eye of a photojournalist. More than any other collection of Ballen’s work, Platteland vividly brings to life the precarious existence of the people who inhabit the unseen countryside.

Texture, composition and an assortment of both objects and animals increasingly become part of the frame in Outland (2001) and Shadow Chamber (2005). In these works seemingly incompatible objects coexist comfortably with sense of authenticity. To the uninitiated the assortment of objects may seem arbitrary but upon closer inspection one can discern Ballen’s ability to bring out the interrelationship between the different objects, the people, their forms and arrangement as well as their metaphysical and emotive qualities. The series Shadow Chamber in particular demonstrates how space, volume and atmosphere are manipulated to create an eerie and surreal world.

The latest series of works from Boarding House (2009) are almost exclusively painterly and sculptural. The human and animal subjects have all but disappeared and function more like stage props or weird sculptures within the composition. Visitors to the gallery will notice that, despite the range of subjects and approaches that Ballen has pursued, a sense of continuity is maintained by a number of visual ‘threads’ and graphic elements such as electric wires that can be traced from his latest work back to his earliest photographs in the small towns of South Africa.

“I have been shooting black and white film for nearly fifty years now. I believe I am part of the last generation that will grow up with this media. Black and White is a very minimalist art form and unlike color photographs does not pretend to mimic the world in a manner similar to the way the human eye might perceive. Black and White is essentially an abstract way to interpret and transform what one might refer to as reality.

My purpose in taking photographs over the past forty years has ultimately been about defining myself. It has been fundamentally a psychological and existential journey.

If an artist is one who spends his life trying to define his being, I guess I would have to call myself an artist.” -Roger Ballen

Fast Forward Live Installation of “I Fink U Freeky” with

Roger Ballen + Die Antwoord at Mouche Gallery

On Friday, April 26, 2013, Keiko Noah Maestro at Mouche Gallery invited guests to experience the “I Fink U Freeky” world of Roger Ballen and Die Antwoord through an interactive Installation at Mouche Gallery. The gallery was transformed and Roger Ballen’s edgy, gritty “dark comic book world” took over. This is the first installation of Roger Ballen in the United States. Visitors of the gallery were shocked to see what was waiting behind the velvet red ropes separating Roger Ballen’s world from the rest of Beverly Hills, as pigeons, doves, and live rats accented Roger Ballen’s play on Hollywood. Ballen co-directed the “I Fink U Freeky” music video with Ninja for Die Antwoord that has swept the nation. The viral video sensation is close to 30 million Youtube hits, and still escalating. Watch the video and get a glimpse into the process of one of the top contemporary photographer of this generation, and this cutting edge rap group from South Africa – Die Antwoord, the vibration that is being seen and heard around the globe.

Buy Roger Ballen Prints



MASTERS OF REALITY – “If someone punches you in the face fokken hard, it makes you stop thinking about everything except, ‘What the fok just happened?’”
“Suddenly we stopped liking all the music and and art we had made up till this point and decided to throw it all away. This new dark comic book world was The Fokken Answer! We wanted to move into this world and leave our old reality behind. This new wold was so alien but also so strangely familiar. So mysterious and comforting and exciting.” – From a letter to Roger Baller from Die Antwoord

Step into the world of Roger Ballen at Mouche Gallery. His subject is the human condition; if existence is not always cakes and ale, so be it. A former geologist, Ballen now mines photography for its hard, theatrical canter. Every Ballen photograph is an unapologetic, colorless, and compelling world formed at that place where fiction and documentary overlap. A lie that tells the truth.

His Work Resides in the following Museum Collections: Biblioteque Nationale, Paris – Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA – Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France – Fotomuseum, Munchen, Germany – George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, USA – Hasselblad, Goteborg, Sweden – Johannesburg Art Museum, South Africa – Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA – Maison Europeene de la Photographie, Paris – Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK – Musee de I’Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland – Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa – Tate Britain, London, UK

Roger Ballen Works