I'm basically an organizer. I organize visual chaos into visual coherency.
        —Roger Ballen

Photographer Roger Ballen deftly balances the rich tones and elegant textures of his work with provocative imagery that is at once surprising and amusing, shocking and grotesque. His black-and-white photographs of rural South Africans in their homes and urban "outsiders" in windowless rooms present complex interior arrangements and the events that transpire within.

One constant in Ballen's photographs is his interest in line and drawing. In early works, electrical cords, wire cages, twisted coat hangers, graffiti, and printed signs combine with figures whose gestures and placements contribute to compelling surreal visual narratives. Drawing complements and energizes the theatrical settings and communicates a sense of alienation, chaos, and disorder. More recently, Ballen has directly integrated line into photographs that incorporate drawing on glass. Psychologically edgy and seductively beautiful images result.

Pictured above:
From the Asylum series
Archival pigment print
90 x 90 cm (35 3/8 x 35 3/8 in.)
Collection of the artist


Roger Ballen, 2012
Photograph by Craig Allen Subler

NMAfA exhibits