ROGER THE RAT captures the multitude of Ballen’s artistic excellence, such as photography, writing, directing, and psychology. The artwork is quintessentially in the Ballenesque aesthetic that Ballen created himself during five decades of taking photographs.

Produced in Johannesburg between 2015 and 2020, Roger The Rat is a part-human part-rodent character, engaging in ‘devious’ acts, abandoning morality in favour of living a life that is freed from societal constructs, treating women and children with equal disregard, acting upon animal instincts and the subconscious mind. Roger The Rat series is a dissection of the human psyche as much as it is a critique of societal expectations, having the viewer feel a sense of discomfort.

Roger The Rat consists of sixty photographs and a film. In 2020, ROGER THE RAT book was published by Hatje Cantz, featuring almost all of the photographic work. The unreleased photographs and short videos taken on set during filming are now available as art NFTs. The exclusive selection of art NFTs have never been released before and come as a collection of unique artworks and limited editions. The collection will drop soon on misa.art!

Roger the Rat

About the artist

Born in New York City, US in 1950, lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. Roger Ballen is one of the most influential photographers of his generation. He has published over 25 books internationally, most recently ROGER THE RAT, Hatje Cantz,2020). 

In his artistic practice, Ballen has increasingly been won over by the possibilities of integrating photography and drawing. He has expanded his repertoire and extended his visual language. By integrating drawing into his photographic and video works, the artist has not only made a lasting contribution to the field of art, but equally has made a powerful commentary about the human condition and its creative potential. Ballen has been the creator of several acclaimed and exhibited short films. The collaborative film I Fink You Freeky, created for the cult band Die Antwoord in 2012, has garnered over 125 million hits on YouTube. He has taken his work into the realms of sculpture and installation, of which many of them have been voted as the best exhibition with installations since 2016. Roger Ballen is one of the artists that is currently representing the South Africa Pavilion at the Venice Biennale Arte 2022.


By exploring the shadow side of the human mind, visualizing the unconscious, the uncanny and the unexpected, Roger Ballen has developed a distinctive aesthetic which has come to be known as 'Ballenesque', developed over five decades of taking black and white photographs. Think bare walls. Filthy bedding. Dead-eyed mannequins. Chains. Live birds. Chalk drawings. And rats. Many, many rats. Ballenesque style normalises what is referred to as “dark” turning it into a “normal world”.