Roger Ballen

How was 2014 for Roger Ballen?

Dreams, nature, and hearing the word 'Ballenesque' used to describe another piece of art all made it a great year

The brilliant artist Roger Ballen has often spoken of his photographs as a 40-year-long quest ultimately, to "define" himself. "It's been fundamentally a psychological and existential journey," he's said. "I want to transform the physical world into the psychological world.”

This year saw Ballen continuing that artistic journey with a series of landmark shows all over the world. Yet despite the high work rate (and the travel that accompanies it) he found time to revisit the archive of his seminal Outland series and we're proud to announce that an expanded version of that book, featuring more than 40 never-before-seen images, will be published in the new year. Originally published in 2001, the newly expanded work will also feature a particularly insightful new essay by Elisabeth Sussman, Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.


Cat Fish Tank - Roger Ballen
Cat Fish Tank - Roger Ballen

The culmination of over 20 years of work, at the time of its original release, Outland really marked a shift in Ballen’s practice. Beginning by documenting the small “dorps” or villages of rural South Africa in the late 80s and early 90s, his photography moved on to their Inhabitants: isolated rural whites, scarred by history, in the process of losing the privileges of apartheid which had provided their livelihoods and sustained their identity for a generation. The results were both powerful social statements and disturbing psychological studies.

Where previously his pictures, however troubling, fell firmly into the category of documentary photography, his new work moved into the realms of fiction, with Ballen’s characters acting out dark and discomfiting tableaux, providing images, exciting, disturbing and for many of us quite beautiful in equal measures. In the years since, Ballen's astonishingly powerful work has gone on to influence a generation of artists from both the visual and the music worlds. So what did he make of 2014? Let's find out.


Doll Wall - Roger Ballen
Doll Wall - Roger Ballen


__What was the thing that inspired you most this year? __

"I have commonly stated that I do not work with inspiration, but with concentration, discipline, and passion. Every day in some way or another I am inspired be it a dream, nature, or by coincidence. As an artist, it is inspiring to create a work that has deeper meanings. It is like giving birth."

What was your personal working highlight this year?  

"The personal working highlight of this year was that for the first time I showed sculpture, installations and photography. As a result my aesthetic was expanded beyond the limits of photography and on occasions I heard the word Ballenesque being used to describe other art works."

What can we expect from you in 2015?

"Besides the numerous exhibitions that I will be having all over the world which one can view on my website,  I am very excited about the new Outland book that Phaidon will publish with over 40 images that have not been seen before. I am busy producing an accompanying video as I believe this is the ideal media to link the images with."