Roger Ballen

Roger Ballen was Born 1950 in New York City. Since the 1970s he lives and works in South Africa.

Considered one of the most original image-makers of the twenty-first century, American-born photographer Roger Ballen has lived and worked in South Africa for four decades. His latest work, Asylum of the Birds, is set within the confines of a makeshift house on the outskirts of Johannesburg, a place inhabited by individuals at the absolute margins of society. In this anarchic place, the human and animal inhabitants collaborate as Ballen’s cast in an on going series of quasi-directed performances. As we enter Ballen’s layered netherworld the images simultaneously repel and compel our gaze and transport us to an even darker dream world, that of the fears within our own imagination. The omnipresent birds, both alive and dead, signal a foreboding reminiscent of Hitchcock, while simultaneously suggesting hope and freedom. While the word ‘asylum’ could be defined a place of insanity, it also suggests refuge and persists in our mind as a metaphor for redemption. Says Ballen of his work; “My purpose in taking photographs over the past forty years has ultimately been about defining myself. It has been fundamentally a psychological and existential journey.”

The photographer studied psychology at the University of California, and later his PhD at the Colorado School of Mines, specialising in Mineral Economics. Ballen was originally drawn to South Africa to work as a geologist, but his enthusiasm for photography strengthened, and he has been taking images there for nearly fifty years.

Ballen's underworld has recently become the setting of a music video by the South African group Die Antwoord entitled ‘I Fink U Freeky’ (with forty-eight million hits online). The exhibition also presents a short video documentary (which received over forty-thousand hits the week of its debut) of Ballen at work. The film will be on view in the exhibition. A new monograph of the same from Thames & Hudson is available for purchase at the gallery. Ballen's previous award-winning books include Platteland (1994), Outland (2001), Shadow Chamber (2005), and Boarding House (2009). A few rare copies of Outland and Shadow Chamber are also available for purchase at the gallery.

Ballen has had over 50 exhibitions worldwide, and his work is being collected by some 40 museums worldwide, including the Folkwang, Essen, LACMA, Los Angeles, Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Stedelijk, Amsterdam, Victoria and Albert, London, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the MoMA, New York, just to name a few.

Selected solo exhibitions


Alter Ego, ARTCO Gallery, Aachen, Germany

Box Gallery, Brussels, Belgium

Bronze Horse Gallery, Krasnodar, Russia

Center of Photography, Montevideo, Uruguay

City Art Gallery, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

El Centro de Extension Alfonso Lagos (CECAL UdeC), Chile

Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles, United States

Futuredome Le Dictateur, Milan, Italy

Galeria Senda, Barcelona, Spain

Galerija Fotografia, Ljubljana, Slovenija

M. Contemporary, Sydney, Australia

Museu Fotografia Fortaleza, Brazil

Museum of Fine Arts Ekaterinburg Foto Summer, Russia

National Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria

Photo18 Zurich, Switzerland

PH Photo Centre, Cape Town, South Africa

School of the Photographic Arts, Ottawa, Canada

Wiesbaden Biennale, Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Germany


„The House of the Ballenesque“ Maison des Peintres, Les Rencontres d'Arles, Arles, France

Hamiltons Gallery – London, United Kingdom

Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia, United States

La ERRE Cultural Soace, Guatemala

Origins Centre Association, Johannesburg, South Africa

Guandong Museum, China

Akershus Kunstsenter, Lillestrom, Norway

Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

Tauranga Art Gallery, Tauranga, New Zealand

Biennial Fotografica Bogota, Columbia

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota Florida, United States

Stadtmuseum + Kunstsammlung Jena, Jena, Germany


Anzenberger Gallery, Handmade Show, Austria

Aura Gallery, China

Barbado Gallery, Lisboa, Portugal

Carpentier Gallery, Berlin, Germany

Central Academy of Fine Art Museum, Beijing

Centro Fotografico Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Mexico

City Gallery Palffy Palais, Bratislava, Slovakia

Etherton Gallery, Tucson, United States

Fototeca, Monterrey, Mexico

Foto Museo de Cuatro Caminos, Mexico City

Galleria Massimo Minini, Brescia, Italy

Gallery Momo, Cape Town

Gallery Momo, Johannesburg

Hamilton Gallery, London, UK

Hydra and Fotografia, Mexico

Izzy Gallery, Toronto, Canada

James Fuentes, New York City, United States

João Barbado – Lisboa, Portugal

Museo Arocena ,Torreón, Mexico

Museum Dr Guislain Gent

Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul Turkey

Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery, San Jose

State University, San Jose, United States

Photokina, Cologne, Germany

SIPF Gillman Barracks, Singapore

SNAP! Gallery, Orlando, Florida, United States

Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona, United States

Sunaparanta, Goa Centre for the Arts, India

Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, Australia

TEA Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, Canary Islands

Von der Heydt-Kunsthalle, Wuppertal-Barmen

Wei-Ling Contemporary, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Zemack Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel


Bogotá Photo Festival, Bogotá, Colombia

CAFAM, Beijing, China

Chazen Museum of Art, Wisconsin, United States

David Krut Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

Frigoriferi Milanesi, Milan, Italy

Fried Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa

Galerie Karsten Greve, Köln, Germany

Galerie Rudolphe Janssen, Masks, Brussels, Belgium

Galerie Senda, Barcelona, Spain

Kafka House, Prague, Czech Republic

Kyotographie, Kyoto, Japan

La Fabrica, Madrid, Spain

Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain

Museum of Image, Braga, Portugal

Photoink, New Delhi, India

Pori Art Museum, Pori , Finland

Serlachius Museum, Mänttä, Finland Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago, Chile

Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Brazil

Moscow Media Centre, Moscow, Russia
Museu Oscar Niemeyter, Brazil
Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome, Italy
Christophe Guye Galerie, Zurich, Switzerland
Festival de la Luz, Buenos Aires, Chile
Fotografiska, Stockholm, Sweden
Kunst- und Kulturzentrum Monschau, Aachen, Germany
Mueum Dr. Guislain, Gent, Belgium
Musee Nicephore Niepce, Chalon-sur Saone, France
Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Belfast Photo Festival, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Maison De L'Image Documentaire, The CèTávoiR Association, Paris, France
Museum of Old and New, Hobart, Australia
Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center, Denmark
Photoink, New Delhi, India
Pingao International Photography Festival, China
Palm Springs Art Museum, California, USA
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC, United States
Westlicht, Schauplatz fur Fotografie, Vienna, Austria

Erdmann Contemporary & the Photographers Gallery za, Cape Town, South Africa
Guate Festival, Guatemala de la Asunción, Guatemala
Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs, Wiesbaden, Germany
Kunstalle, Vienna, Austria
Manchester Art Museum, Great Britain
Marta Herford Museum, Herford, Germany
Musee de l Elysee, Lausanne Switzerland
Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Northwest University Museum, Potchestroom, South Africa
Novosibirsk Art Museum, Russia
Rosphoto, St. Petersburg, Russia
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel

Angkor Photo Festival, Cambodia
Fondazione Terre Medicee, Seravezza, Italy
Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal, Canada
Museum Het Domein, Sittard, Netherlands
Omsk Museum, Russia
Sammlung Prinzhorn, Outland and Shadow Chamber, Heidelberg, Germany

Comune di Arco/Galleria Civica, Italy
Centro de Arte la Regenta, Las Palmas, Spain
Festival of Photography of Savignano, Italy
George Eastman House, Rochester, United States
Sammlungsleiter Fotomuseum, Munich, Germany
Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Norway
Sydney Biennale, Australia
University of the O.F.S., South Africa
Ubuntu, Salzburg Austria
Ubuntu, Berlin, Germany
George Eastman House, Rochester, United States
Sammlungsleiter Fotomuseum, Munich, Germany
Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Norway
Sydney Biennale, Australia
University of the O.F.S., South Africa

AEREA / Christian Larsen, Stockholm, Sweden
Hertzelia Artists Host Centre, Tel Aviv, Israel
Omaggio a Federico Vender at Palazzo dei Panni of Arco Trento Su Palatu, Sardinia, Italy

Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany

Atlanta College of Arts, United States
Berlin Biennial, Berlin, Germany
Biblioteque Nationale, Paris, France
Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa
Fotografisk Center, Copenhagen, Denmark
Guido Costa Projects, Torino, Italy
Museum voor Fotografie, Antwerp, Belgium
National Arts Festival, South Africa
Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloem, South Africa
Photographer's Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
Sasol Museum, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, United States

Berkeley Art Museum, California, United States
Le Chateau d' eau a Toulouse, France
State Museum of Russia, St. Petersburg, Russia

Centro Cultural de Maia, O'Porto, Portugal
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, United States
Musee Nicephore Niepce, Chalon-sur-Saône, France
Museo Nazionalle Italy, Brescia, Italy

Museet for Fotokunst, Odense, Danmark
Sala Rekalde, Bilbao, Spain

Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa
Encontros da imagem, Braga, Portugal
Fotoforum, Frankfurt, Germany
Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, Sweden
International Photo Festival, Herten, Herten
Krefelder Kunstmuseen, Krefeld, Germany
Mateo Inurria, Cordoba, Spain
PhotoEspana, Madrid, Spain
Printemps de Septembre a Toulouse, France
Rupertinum, Salzburg. Austria
Wurttembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germane

Museum of Photography, Athens, Greece
Noordelicht, Amsterdam, Netherlans
Royal Theatre of Namur, Belgium
Sani Festival, Greece
Thessaloniki, Month of Photography, Greece

Month of Photography, Bratislava, Slovakia
Month of Photography, Cape Town, South Africa

Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland
Kunstal Museum, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Eindhoven Photographic Festival, Netherlands
Tarranto Gallery, New York City, United States

Arles Photographic Festival, Arles, France
Royal Festival Hall/Hayward, London, Great Britain

Afrikaner Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa
Michaelis Collection, Cape Town, South Africa

Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria, South Africa

Market Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa

Centre for Photography, Denver, United States

Selected group exhibitions


AIPAD -The Association of International Photography Art Dealers, New York, United States

Kendell Geers – Sindika Dokolo Foundation in Luanda

V1 Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark – Roger Ballen with Asger Carlsen

„Art of Others, Outsiders, Self Taught and Native Artists" Haifa Museum, Haifa, Israel
„The Art of Photography Show" San Diego Art Institute, San Diego, California, United States
„Confounding: Contemporary Photography" National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
„Domestic Disorder in Contemporary Art" Musexpo, Gouggainville, France
„Play" Turnhout, Antwerp, Belgium
„The Rise and Fall of Apartheid" International Centre of Photography, New York, United States
„Seeing Eye, Brundyn and Gonsalves" Cape Town, South Africa
„Traumwelten – In the Court of the King of Dreams" Kunsthalle HGN, Duderstadt, Germany
„Twins, Center for Photography" Woodstock, New York, United States

„High Speed Insanity" Blomquist, Oslo, Norway
Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi, Rio de Janerio, Brazil
National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru, India

„BIP 2010" Liege, Belgium
„PEEKABOO!" Helsinki Art Museum Tennis Palace, Finland

„After Nature" New Museum, New York, United States
„Cautionary Tales, Albuquerque" United States
„New York Photo Festival" New York, United States

„Making Faces" Musée de l'Elysée, France

„Citigroup Photography Prize" London, Great Britain
„Centro Cultural de Maia O'Porto, Portugal
National Portrait Gallery, London, Great Britain
„Dislocation" Sala Rekalde Bilbao, Spain
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Great Britain

Museet for Fotokunst, Odensen, Danmark
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

„Portraits of Africa"Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany

Film & Television, Bradford, Great Britain
National Portrait Gallery, London, Great Britain

„Comment Jouer Enfermement" Maison Européene de la Photographie, Paris, France
National Portrait Gallery, London, Great Britain


„Double Vie, Double Vue" Fondation Cartier pour l'art Contemporain, Paris, France
South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa


Best Music Video, I Fink U Freeky, Plus Camerimage International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography in Bydgoszcz, Poland
I Fink U Freeky. Award for best music video at the 20th Short Vila do Conde International Film Festival, Portugal

Finalist - Lucie Awards
Curator/Exhibition of the Year: Roger Ballen: Photographs 1982 - 2009.
Curated by Dr. Anthony Bannon for the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York.
Art Directors Club Award Photography

Selma Blair Witch Project - New York Times Magazine, October 31st 2005
Top 10 Exhibition, Matthew Higgs, Artforum

Citigroup Prize, finalist, UK
Photographer of the Year, Rencontres d' Arles
Top 10 Exhibition, Vince Aletti, Artforum

Photo-eye, Best Documentary Title, Best Photography Books of 2001
PhotoEspana, Best Photographic Book of the Year, Spain

Sani Festival, Best Solo Exhibition, Greece
Special mention: UNICEF Photo of the Year 2001


Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Berkeley Art Museum, California
Biblioteque 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
Haifa Museum of Art, Israel
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
Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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
Palm Springs Art Museum, California
Oliewenhuis, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Spencer Art Museum, Kansas, USA
State Museum of Russia, Moscow, Russia
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Tate Britain, London, UK
Tel Aviv Museum, Israel
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia, USA
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, USA