Roger Ballen is an American photographer who has been living and working in South Africa for the last thirty years. I found out about him and his singular art only six years ago when in 2012 he directed a music video called “I Fink U Freeky” for the South African group Die Antwoord. Correcting my unawareness, I learned that Roger Ballen is a well known photographer who has been active for many decades. In his own words photographs “are also records of a personal psychological journey” and I must admit that his journey is an interesting one.
The exhibition “Ballenesque” at Reflex Gallery in Amsterdam was showing a selection of his works from the times when he was still living in the United States up until now. It included 30 photographs and 150 Polaroid images.
Ballen not only photographs but joins drawing, painting and installation art inside his compositions for the photographs. They all have a touch of shadows, sometimes they include characters that are meant to create anxious feelings or maybe even invite us all to take a look into our own shady side. Animals are also present in his works nearly as often as people are. They range from cute puppies to bugs and rats, usually in abandoned houses with decadent walls that reveal his signature graffiti creatures.
The Polaroids present in this exhibition were commissioned by the Reflex Gallery and are his first display of colored images in his entire career as a photographer.