© Roger Ballen 2019


ROGER BALLEN: Success in Fine Art Photography

Orientation Sunday, May 5, 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Monday, May 6th – Wednesday, May 8th 9:00am – 4:00pm.

Thursday, May 9th 9:00am – 11:00am (Optional)

During the days of this workshop, students will immerse themselves in the making of photographs, review and critiques in order to help clarify how to take the next step and find their own path in fine art photography.
The purpose of the class is to assist the participants with the following concepts:

• To be able to more effectively express their own psychological identities through photography.

• To be able to better integrate the subjectivity that is involved in aesthetic photography with the science of photography

• To be able to analyse the aesthetics of a photograph. In particular, the issues of composition will be focused on as a prerequisite to producing quality imagery.

• To better understand the business of art photograph and what it entails

• To better understand the aesthetics of Roger Ballen in such a way that it can assist the class members to develop their own aesthetic style

“I have been shooting black and white film for nearly fifty years now. I am part of the last generation that will grow up with this media. Black and White is a very minimalist art form and unlike color photographs does not pretend to mimic the world in a manner similar to the way the human eye might perceive. Black and White is essentially an abstract way to interpret and transform what one might refer to as reality.

My purpose in taking photographs over my career has ultimately been about defining myself. It has been fundamentally a psychological and existential journey.

If an artist is one who spends his life trying to define his being, I guess I would have to call myself an artist.”

A text about Roger Ballen by Daniell Cornell, Ph.D, Former Deputy Director for Art and Senior Curator, Palm Springs Art Museum: 

Originally born and raised in New York City, Roger Ballen has lived in South Africa since receiving his Ph.D. in Mineral Economics in 1981. Initially his work as a geologist took him to the country’s rural communities. Fascinated by the uncertain and precarious conditions he found, he began photographing people in small towns at the margins of society. Ballen documented these residents through a series of unsettling portraits that reveal the human condition even as his subjects exhibit idiosyncratic manners and habits.

Recognizing the potential for psychological tension in the emotional responses evoked by his images, Ballen shifted away from traditional social documentary photography. In the 1990s he began introducing unexpected elements into the setting of his portraits, juxtaposing his subjects with animals, broken furnishings, discarded objects, wires, and wall drawings to create surreal images that are simultaneously real and fictional. The resulting photographs suggest narrative tableau drawn from a theater of the absurd to produce disturbing scenarios. This group challenges conventional beliefs about human and animal interactions.

Increasingly, Ballen’s images exploit the shallow space between a constructed backdrop and the camera in a way that is immediate and confrontational. However, the overall effect is less aggressive than intimate and challenging. Formally, these photographs eliminate the distinction between background and foreground, organizing what appears to be a chaotic jumble of parts – human, animal, and inanimate – into an abstract field of psychological associations. In them viewers encounter their own assumptions about reality and the existential enigma of the human condition.

PRICE:  $1630.

This workshop is limited to 16 attendees.



Born in New York City in 1950, Roger Ballen has lived and worked in Johannesburg, South Africa for almost 30 years. During this period from 1982 to 2008 he has produced many series of works which has evolved from photo-journalism to a unique artistic vision. This exhibition tracks the development of his style which has made an important contribution to the field of photography. Ballen’s work has been shown in important institutions throughout the world and is represented in many Museum Collections such as Biblioteque Nationale, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Tate Modern, London, UK, Museum Folkswang, Essen, Germany and Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA.

In the series Platteland: Images from Rural South Africa (1994) in which Ballen focuses on the inhabitants of small rural towns and approaches his subjects with a combination of empathy and the unflinching eye of a photojournalist. More than any other collection of Ballen’s work, Platteland vividly brings to life the precarious existence of the people who inhabit the unseen countryside.

Texture, composition and an assortment of both objects and animals increasingly become part of the frame in Outland (2001) and Shadow Chamber (2005). In these works seemingly incompatible objects coexist comfortably with sense of authenticity. To the uninitiated the assortment of objects may seem arbitrary but upon closer inspection one can discern Ballen’s ability to bring out the interrelationship between the different objects, the people, their forms and arrangement as well as their metaphysical and emotive qualities. The series Shadow Chamber in particular demonstrates how space, volume and atmosphere are manipulated to create an eerie and surreal world.

The series of works from Boarding House (2009) are almost exclusively painterly and sculptural. The human and animal subjects have all but disappeared and function more like stage props or weird sculptures within the composition. Visitors to the gallery will notice that, despite the range of subjects and approaches that Ballen has pursued, a sense of continuity is maintained by a number of visual ‘threads’ and graphic elements such as electric wires that can be traced from his latest work back to his earliest photographs in the small towns of South Africa.
The latest series of works entitled “Asylum” approximates a point between surrealism and Art Brut. Whilst these movements originated from painting, Ballen’s images are not paintings, they are photographs, and as a result he has to work within the confines of this media. He believes that his photographs are predominately psychological in meaning and ultimately emanate from his psyche.

Roger Ballen’s monographs include:

Roger Ballen, 2012
Boarding House, 2009
Shadow Chamber, 2005
Fact or Fiction, 2003
Outland, 2001
Cette Afrique là, 1997
Platteland, 1994
Dorps, 1986
Boyhood, 1979

He is represented by the Gagosian Gallery in NYC, Stills Gallery, Sydney; Gallery Xavier Hufkens, Brussels; The Clint Roenisch Gallery, Toronto; The Aura Gallery, Beijing & Shanghai; Galleri Tom Christoffersen, Copenhagen; Galerie Kamel Mennour, Paris; Johnen Galerie, Berlin; Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs, Wiesbaden; Galleria Massimo Minini, Brescia; Galerie Alex Daniels, Reflex, Amsterdam; Galerija Fotografija, Slovenija; Galeria SENDA, Barcelona; Hamiltons Gallery, London.

His work resides in the following Museum Collections:

Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Berkeley Art Museum, California
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Alabama, USA
Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa
Fotomuseum, Munchen, Germany
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, USA
Hasselblad, Goteborg, Sweden
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, USA
Johannesburg Art Museum, South Africa
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA
Louisiana Museum, Denmark
Maison Europeene de la Photographie, Paris
Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester. United Kingdom
Musée de la Photographie á Charleroi, Belguim
Musee de l’Elysee , Lausanne, Switzerland
Museet for Fotokunst, Denmark
Museo nazionale Della Fotographia, Brescia, Italy
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, USA
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
National Museum of Film and Photography, Bradford UK
Spencer Art Museum, Kansas, USA
State Museum of Russia, Moscow, Russia
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Tate Britain, London, UK
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia, USA
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, USA


Models*, transportation and delicious boxed lunches are provided for each full day of the class.

Photographers should bring their laptops and be conversant with their hardware and software in order to facilitate downloading and projecting their work for critiques in class. Digital projectors with standard DVI / VGA cables will be provided. If you require any special adapter for your computer for this purpose, please be sure to bring one to class. All Workshop Participants are invited to the Canon/Freestyle Digital Print Center at Korakia on Thursday, May 9th from 11:00am to 6:00pm to have an image of their choice printed out on a Canon Pro 2000 printer, using custom profiles and on their choice of several inkjet papers.