Outland is the culmination of almost twenty years work for artist-photographer Roger Ballen and amounts to one of the most extraordinary photographic documents of the late twentieth century. Beginning by documenting the small ‘dorps’ or villages of rural South Africa, Ballen’s photography moved on in the late 1980s and early 1990s to their inhabitants: isolated rural whites, scarred by history, in the process of losing the privileges of apartheid which had provided them livelihoods and sustained their identity for a generation. The results were shocking, both powerful social statements and disturbing psychological studies.
Through the late 1990s and into 2000, Ballen’s work progressed again. Continuing to portray whites on the fringe of South African society, his subjects begin to act. Where previously his pictures, however troubling, fell firmly into the category of documentary photography, these pictures move into the realms of fiction. Ballen’s characters act out dark and discomfiting tableaux, providing images which are exciting and disturbing in equal measure. One is forced to wonder whether they are exploited victims, colluding directly in their own ridicule, or newly empowered and active participants within the drama of their representation.
Outland is named Best Photographic Book Of The Year at PhotoEspaña 2001, Madrid, Spain.