Roger Ballen (American b. 1950)
Ballen was born in 1950 in New York and earned a BS in geology the University of California. Ballen earned a master’s degree in geology and a doctorate in mineral economics at the University of Colorado. He currently lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In his contemplative and mysterious photographs, Roger Ballen skillfully combines the aesthetic of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Diane Arbus, Joel Peter Witkin and Walker Evans. Ballen’s images captivate viewers with their similarities to hand drawings and comment on contemporary life through the means of a black comedy. The pictures themselves, as with Joel Peter Witkin’s, are not portraits of dysfunctional people but rather portraits of a dysfunctional world. Ballen does not make these pictures to patronize his subjects, or to have them act as his performers as Arbus did. Rather, he embraces their strong features and bold expressions in a non-oppressive manner. Ballen’s photographs are visually stimulating constructions inviting interpretation and reflection.