South Africa: Roger Ballen Goes Grimm - From Rats and Rappers to Witches and Gingerbread Houses


An abiding interest in psychology and a lifetime's worth of experiences in difficult places have established him as a visual curator of humanity's uncanny interior world. And now photographer Roger Ballen has designed his first opera. Unsurprisingly, it's no straightforward fairy tale.

The American, Johannesburg-based Roger Ballen creates worlds. Strange, disturbing, sense-jolting and often whacky, worlds. Places that straddle some indefinable, enigmatic space infused with elements of reality and fiction, connecting documentary with the imagination.

They're worlds connoting dreams. Or, more likely, nightmares.

These imagined places are the setting for scenes that most regard as dark, disturbing, unsettling; they're macabre, uncanny, potentially frightening. Funny, too, although you might hold your laughter in certain company. Unavoidable to notice is the bleakness, the despair, the uncomfortable weirdness that pervades his photographs and videos, too.

Immersed, 2016; Photographs Roger Ballen Photographs Roger Ballen Photographs Roger Ballen

All these feelings are rooted in actuality, inspired by people encountered and places explored. "It's not just a fantasy trip that I've had over the years," he says, "but real experiences with real people in difficult places, violent places, chaotic places, places on the margin that left a deep impact on me."

Down the line, he says...

More From: Daily Maverick

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 900 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.