In her 2004 book The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Charlotte Cotton describes Roger Ballen’s work in the following terms:
‘…Ballen’s photographs are black and white in the tradition of humanist documentary photography, but without any obvious narrative content that depicts social or political change. There is perhaps a greater affinity between Ballen’s imagery and monochromatic painting or drawing than there is with photography’s social history’
On his website Ballen says ‘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.’
So far so clear, this is not social documentary – it is something else. And yet his work has provokes dramatic and at times massively negative reactions because it is judged as such. Maybe not the puzzling tender images such as ‘Puppy Between Feet’ above, but certainly his confrontational images such as Dresie and Casie (Bottom RHS here) from the series Platteland.
Therefore a major exhibition of his work Shadow Land at Manchester Art Gallery which explores three decades of his career, charting the evolution of his unique photographic style is an unmissable opportunity for an OCA study visit. And because of the nature of Roger Ballen’s work we think that the visit will challenge and intrigue students from across the visual arts. The visit, on Thursday 10 May will start at 11.15 and will be led by Peter Haveland. To book your free place please email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you can’t make the visit take a look at Roger Ballen’s website and listen to this interview on lens culture. And if you finally think you have a handle on Roger Ballen’s work, take a look at this video he directed for Die Antwoord – described in the BJP as the South African ‘band that has single-handedly brought “Zef” style, a euphoric glorification of the trash-bling underbelly of white post-apartheid South Africa to worldwhile attention.’