Manchester Art Gallery

Shadow Land: Photographs by Roger Ballen 1983-2011

A major exhibition of work by internationally-acclaimed photographer Roger Ballen.

Manchester Art Gallery
Friday 30 March 2012–Sunday 13 May 2012


Ballen’s work offers a powerful social critique and an extreme, uncanny beauty. This exhibition explored three decades of Ballen’s career, charting the evolution of his unique photographic style and demonstrating the contribution he has made to contemporary photography.

One of the most important photographers of his generation, Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950 but for over 30 years he has lived and worked in South Africa. In his work from the early 1980s to mid 90s he gained world recognition and critical acclaim with his powerful and controversial images of those living on the margins of South African society.

Although retaining the same distinctive aesthetic, (all his work is in black and white, square format) Ballen’s work has evolved into a style he describes as ‘documentary fiction’ where the line between reality and fantasy is deliberately blurred. In doing so, his work enters into a new realm of photography; the images are painterly and sculptural in ways not immediately associated with photography.

Shadow Land included previously unseen work from his new series Asylum and was Ballen’s first solo show in a UK public gallery.

Fans of Ballen’s work will be interested in his recent collaboration with Die Antwoord, a futuristic rap-rave crew from South Africa who represent a new style called Zef. Ballen’s photography has had a formative influence on the band and led to him directing their latest video I fink u freeky poised to be a viral sensation and introduce Ballen’s work to an entirely new audience.

An interview with Roger Ballen


Roger Ballen, Mimicry, 2005, detail
Courtesy of the artist and Hamilton’s Gallery, London.