Roger Ballen, originally from the USA, has lived in South Africa for over thirty years. His anthology Outland is a culmination of almost twenty years worth of work, ranging from the uninhabited “dorp” towns in South Africa, to the portraits of isolated rural whites in the midst of losing the privileges of apartheid, which had provided them livelihoods. The results are shocking, powerful social statements and disturbing psychological explorations.
Ballen’s photo installations waver between fact and fiction; the artist creates characters on the set of his own drama in which he intensifies the absurdity of the situation, where animals and objects also play a crucial role.Whilst his earlier pictures could be resolutely described as documentary photography, these pictures reveal his shift into fictitious territory, in which Ballen’s characters play out unsettling and dark tableaux. Peter Weiermair explains, “Ballen is no critical social documentarian, no voyeur of poverty and ugliness; he observes his fellow players in the human comedy rather like a painting – in the manner of a Lucian Freud for example – awed and fascinated by the human body in whatever form it appears and by the profundity of the banal...His figures are protagonists in an existential drama. Ballen is a chronicler of decline and dissolution, an artist who commands a broad emotional spectrum in which horror, revulsion and guilt have their place alongside empathy, humour and wit.”
Ballen has released a revised and republished book Outland available from April 2015. In conjunction with this, Roger Ballen's Outland video is available to view here.