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...