Fact or Fiction.
Photographs by Roger Ballen.
Galerie Kamel Mennour, Paris, 2003. 104 pp., 36 black-and-white illustrations, 9½x9¾".
Roger Ballen has been photographing impoverished, rural Afrikaaner communities in South Africa for the past 30 years. While this may imply images of a documentary nature-indeed, on one level they are-Ballen's work embodies a complexity of form and understanding of the elements of an abstract visual language rarely found in photographers. In an interview with Stephane Guidbourge published in Fact or Fiction, Ballen states, "Over the past decade I have undergone a transition from seeing myself as a photographer to seeing myself as an artist...It is crucial that all elements of my photographs interact for a greater unity of the whole." He wields his refined aesthetic to produce portraits of individuals in a small town cast of characters that are dramatic psychoanalytic studies. The entirety of the interview is highly illuminating and will be of interest to all serious photographers. "There is no doubt that disintegration and dilapidation have been conspicuous in my images over the past two decades. My fundamental perception of the human life process is that there is a 'perpetual acting' on the forces of chaos and that we are continuously ordering aspects of our lives to manage and control the inevitability of breakdown and decay. The metaphors that I create reflect that perception, the struggle against the forces of chaos and the ordering of reality. I have become more intensely aware of this phenomenon as I have aged and perhaps because I am living in Africa."