This article was originally published on culturacolectiva.com
You better say farewell to the person you are right now, because by the end of this photographic journey, you will never be the same again. This is a journey into the depths of the mind, to a place where the limits between reality and fantasy blur. This is a land where dreams and facts become one, where delusions fog the mind and where sanity fades away. Today, we welcome that inner madness that lurks in all of us. Be ready to surrender control and allow your most primal instincts to take the wheel. Photography is a language of its own and it brings forth our darkest emotions. Immerse yourself in this world and embrace chaos and confusion. Ballenesque is the name of this realm, and the creator behind this maze is noted photographer, Roger Ballen, who has captured these uncanny feelings for more than four decades.
Ballen weaves terrifying and alluring images, and his style is utterly unique, cementing his position as one of the most prominent artistic photographers of this era. The abstract and sinister quality of his photographs transport you to a new universe of loneliness, showing how there are no such things as limits when it comes to the mind.
“Over the fifty years that I have photographed, I feel that I have a grasp of crucial elements that make up the human condition. It has always been important for me to probe below the surface, to come into contact with the deeper elements of human consciousness,” Ballen explains. Through his work, you realize that art gives the mind a voice and allows all those hidden and repressed memories to take center stage. There is nothing passive about looking at his work, when your eyes skim through these black and white worlds, your gut clenches, your palms sweat and your mind churns.
“It is clear to me that my photographs challenge viewers’ fundamental perception of reality.”
“I have been obsessed with trying to understand and reveal the so-called core human personality and was influenced at an early age by philosophers and playwrights.”
At the start, Ballen began taking photos as a hobby, but when he moved to South Africa, he realized his photos had artistic value and potential, and he decided to venture into professional photography. He then started to publish books and these were well received, and with the years, he developed a particular style and creative process he termed Ballenesque. Many have tried to emulate his style with no success, and this is a testament to his iconic vision.
“It is nearly imposible for someone to copy my imagery in any convincing way as their can literally be thousands of steps that I have to take prior to shooting the image. Nevertheless, I usually feel very pleased when I come across a photograph that I feel has been influenced by my aesthetic. One of the most crucial aspect of important art is that it inspires artists and non-artists alike.”
“It has always been important for me to probe below the surface; to come into contact with the deeper elements of human consciousness.”
“Since my youth I have had an overtly existential personality. I have been obsessed with trying to understand and reveal the so-called core human personality and was influenced at an early age by philosophers and playwrights such as Beckett, Sartre, Lonesco among others.”
His black and white images often showcase minimalist spaces that he calls, “enclosed cells.” These surroundings have no doors or windows and very little lighting, and these threadbare conditions make room for all the universal issues of the human condition. He’s a psychological artist more concerned with helping the mind voice its inner workings. Despite his minimalist style, his work is far from simple, there are intricate messages hidden within, or perhaps, in some cases, nothing at all. You never know with Roger Ballen and it is this enigmatic nature that is so appealing to an audience.
He is a professional diver, swimming to the very depths of the mind and picking up treasures from forgotten shipwrecks.
If you want to reach very depths of your psyche, then hold the hand of Ballen and plunge into the darkness. Take a look at his most recent book, Ballenesque, which compiles and analyzes all his trajectory.
His most recent work, Ballenesque offers a personal account of his career, including unparalleled insight into his photographic practice. An inward exploration of the self that no one will be able to resist. Get your copy here.