Exploring the shadow side of the human mind, visualizing the unconscious, the uncanny and the unexpected, Roger Ballen has distinguished himself as one of the most original image-makers of our time, defying photography of the 21st century like no other. His vibrant artistic expression finds its outlet in black-and-white photography, mystic drawings, captivating short films or exclusive NFTs and are all part of the artist’s own universe: the Ballenesque.
Born in New York, Roger Ballen moved to South Africa pursuing his occupation as a geologist, which took him out into the countryside and led him to take up his camera and explore the hidden world of small South African towns. Soon enough, Ballen started capturing the essence of those towns by portraying people in their homes, thereby giving the topic of Apartheid many faces. Roger Ballen’s characteristic visual language consists of a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white, and Ballen’s eye for the frighteningly seductive essence of the human condition. His photographs show people and their surroundings raw and authentic, confronting the viewer and challenge them to come with him on a journey into their own minds as he explores the deeper recesses of his own. His most famous photo series “Outland”, “Platteland”, or “Boyhood” not only were shown at museums, galleries and art fairs across the globe but made Ballen one of the most influential contemporary photo-artists.
By continuously developing his artistic practice, Ballen has been won over by integrating photography and drawing and thereby expanding his repertoire of visual language. Always expanding and pushing his own boundaries of creativity, Roger Ballen has broadened his works to short films and created music video for “Die Antwoord” and has taken his works also into the realm of sculpture and installation.
While in his early years he focused on portraying people and putting their personal stories in the spotlight, Roger Ballen now has been expressing his own world of thoughts in his late works. A reoccurring motif: the rat, which also plays an important role in Roger Ballen’s NFT art. Based on the book “Roger the rat”, the artist created the accompanying NFT collection, with a part-human, part-rat creature who lives an isolated life outside of mainstream society as the main character. “Roger the rat” was Ballen’s first-ever NFT collection, consisting of a very limited edition of NFTs, making each one super rare.
Roger Ballen was chosen as one of the three artists to represent South Africa at the 59th Biennale Arte 2022 titled “The Milk of Dreams”. South Africa’s national exhibition for Biennale Arte 2022 reflects the theme ‘Into the Light’ which complements the overarching theme ‘The Milk of Dreams’. Ballen’s exhibited work “The Theatre of the Apparitions” was originally inspired by the sight of hand-drawn carvings on blacked-out windows in an abandoned women’s prison in South Africa. The artworks are photographs of drawings that the artist made on windows inside a building in Johannesburg, creating an otherworld in which ghost-like figures perform. For Ballen these figures present the primal scenes of the unconscious.
The work “Mutant_May 2020" will be released as a 24-Hour Physical Drop exclusively on misa.art on July 28th at 6PM CEST. Each edition will be individualized by the artist himself by hand-drawing distinctive figures on the print.
Roger Ballen, 2016
Roger Ballen's studio
Roger Ballen, Dresie and Casie, Twins, Western Transvaal, 1993.
Roger Ballen, Puppy Between Feet, 1999.
Roger The Rat
Roger Ballen, Mutant_May 2020, 2022