Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950, but for 30 years he has lived and worked in South Africa. His work as a geologist took him out into the countryside and led him to take up his camera and explore the hidden world of small South African towns. At first he explored the empty streets in the glare of the midday sun but, once he had made the step of knocking on people’s doors, discovered a world inside these houses which was to have a profound effect on his work. These interiors with their distinctive collections of objects ad the occupants within these closes worlds mind. After 1994 he no longer looked to the countryside for his subject matter finding it closer to home in Johannesburg.
Over the past thirty five years his distinctive style of photography has evolved using a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. In the earlier works his connection to the tradition of documentary photography is clear but through the 1990s he developed a style he describes as ‘documentary fiction’. After 2000 the people he first discovered and documented living on the margins of South African society increasingly became a cast of actors working with Ballen in the series ‘Outland’ (2000, revised in 2015) and ‘Shadow Chamber’ (2005) collaborating to create powerful psychodramas.