Ballenesque: A Retrospective, 2017

A major, mid-career retrospective of one of the world’s most remarkable and critically acclaimed art photographers

Author: Roger Ballen
Contributor: Robert J. C. Young
Pages: 336
Illustrations: 330
Language: English
Format: Hardback
Size: 32 cm x 30 cm
Publisher: Thames & Hudson



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Ballenesque: A Retrospective, 2017

Roger Ballen (b. 1950) is one of the most important and original art photographers working today. Best known for his probing, often challenging images that exist in a space between painting, drawing, installation and photography, he has achieved global recognition with a series of startling monographs and exhibitions spanning some four decades. Yet until now, no comprehensive retrospective on this highly regarded artist has been released. Based on an entirely new appraisal of Ballen’s archive, one that looks beyond his monographic projects for the first time, Ballenesque takes the reader on a visual, chronological tour of the photographer’s entire œuvre, including both the iconic images and previously unpublished works. At the heart of the book is Ballen’s own exploration of his style – of those particular qualities that make his work so compellingly his own.

Featuring reflective and engaging texts by Ballen himself, the book offers a distinctly personal account of the photographer’s career to date, including rare and privileged insights into Ballen’s photographic practice and the major influences that have helped shape his world view. Each of the key stages in Ballen’s creative journey is explored, from his first serious use of a camera in the 1970s to the release of his seminal monograph Outland (2001), the expansion and refinement of his artistic vision in the first decade of the twenty-first century, and the publication of his most recent work, The Theatre of Apparitions (2016) – a journey that, for Ballen, has been both an outward and an inward exploration of the self. With an introduction by cultural theorist and critic Robert J. C. Young, Ballenesque provides not only an entirely new way of seeing Ballen’s work for those already familiar with his career, but also a comprehensive introduction for those encountering his photographs for the first time.

Roger Ballen

Roger Ballen was Born 1950 in New York City. Since the 1970s he lives and works in South Africa. 

Considered one of the most original image-makers of the twenty-first century, American-born photographer Roger Ballen has lived and worked in South Africa for four decades. His latest work, Asylum of the Birds, is set within the confines of a makeshift house on the outskirts of Johannesburg, a place inhabited by individuals at the absolute margins of society. In this anarchic place, the human and animal inhabitants collaborate as Ballen’s cast in an on going series of quasi-directed performances. As we enter Ballen’s layered netherworld the images simultaneously repel and compel our gaze and transport us to an even darker dream world, that of the fears within our own imagination. The omnipresent birds, both alive and dead, signal a foreboding reminiscent of Hitchcock, while simultaneously suggesting hope and freedom. While the word ‘asylum’ could be defined a place of insanity, it also suggests refuge and persists in our mind as a metaphor for redemption.

Says Ballen of his work; “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.”

The photographer studied psychology at the University of California, and later his PhD at the Colorado School of Mines, specialising in Mineral Economics. Ballen was originally drawn to South Africa to work as a geologist, but his enthusiasm for photography strengthened, and he has been taking images there f...

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