Inside the warped, disturbing world of Roger Ballen

Inside the warped, disturbing world of Roger Ballen
Chaos over order — The iconic photographer has been crafting his own, mysterious world for five decades now – and the results are being celebrated in a new book.

When it comes to his craft, Roger Ballen is not interested in making the viewer comfortable. Quite the opposite, really – he purposefully taps into the darkest aspects of being human, creating claustrophobic black and white scenes set against chaotic, graffitied walls. His work teeters between reality and fiction, between the real-life grit of his subjects and the carefully constructed, somewhat nightmarish environments they are set in.

Photographing since the 1970s and based in South Africa, the 66-year-old has coined his own, completely unique visual style – so individual, in fact, that it was given its own name: ‘Ballenesque.’

Now, his work is being compiled in a new book published by Thames & Hudson. Going chronologically through the prolific artists’ archive, Ballenesque features over 300 images – from well-known shots (such as 1993’s “Dresie and Casie, Twins”) to never-before-seen creations.

Accompanying the book is a short film, which sees the photographer address his work. His gruff voice lists off the key elements – the animals scattered around every scene, the border between real vs unreal, the claustrophobic spaces, and his ultimate rule: chaos over order.

“I have been taking photographs for five decades. During this time, I broke through parts of my mind that I never knew existed,” he intones. “I think my photographs will take you to a world that has been for many inaccessible.”

Puppy Between Feet, 1999

Puppy Between Feet, 1999

Sgt F de Bruin, Dep of Prisons Employees, 1992

Sgt F de Bruin, Dep of Prisons Employees, 1992

One Arm Goose , 2004

One Arm Goose , 2004

Mimicry, 2005

Mimicry, 2005

Man shaving on verandah, 1986

Man shaving on verandah, 1986

Five Hands, 2006

Five Hands, 2006

Cut Loose, 2005

Cut Loose, 2005

Dresie and Casie, Twins, 1993

Dresie and Casie, Twins, 1993

Hug, 2016

Hug, 2016

Head Below Wires, 1999

Head Below Wires, 1999

Devour, 2013

Devour, 2013

Ballenesque is out now via Thames & Hudson. Find your copy here.
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