« Random Excellence: Bently Spang | Main | Fun Factoid »

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

provocative and uncomfortable . . . . i think you get points for posting his work.

"Sometimes, though, I need to interrogate the source of my feelings about artists whose work I don't understand, or reactions in me that I don't understand."

Ummm, yeah, there's that. 2 quick stories:
1. I was 4 or 5, maybe 6, and went to the Baltimore Museum of Art with my mom (just finished art school). Standing in front of a big Pollock, she burst out laughing. My young self looked and wondered:"What's so hysterically funny here?". Now, Pollock is a big influence---on my photography, btw, less than my painting.

2. Also on a trip with my mom, this time in my teens in the '70's, I was at the Basel museum of Art. I was standing in front of a vitrine full of very odd stuff, including a hand print/outline, and I wondered "what is this load of crap?" But somehow it really stuck with me. Fast forward 15 years, I'm in grad school, in a seminar studying a lot of Joseph Beuys---and now i'm really digging him---and here comes up a slide of that very same vitrine full of crap. Bowled me over. Not crap, btw....

I would like to think that I am finally older and mature enough to not be in a rush to disapprove the visions of others. However, there is an abundance of beauty in this world to ponder, regardless of the cruelty of Mother Nature or the good but misguided intentions of mankind. Most of us, me included, will walk past homeless people with signs begging for things they lack, only to be afflicted with inaction. Put the lens cap on and have a Starbucks. There just isn't enough money in my wallet to cure or fix the problem. Bottom line: I don't want or need to take pictures or view the photos by others of the darkness around me. We seem to be capable of paving over the ugliness and populating the scene with potted plants, trees and buildings.

Ballen has also delved into the realm of music videos, as in his collaboration with Die Antwood:


I attended a lecture by Roger Ballen some years ago with my son who was about to start a photography course at college, after spending an hour looking at the images and then listening to the lecture my boy asked me if this man was an actor

I wasnt able to answer his question

and his hipness comes from his association with the group Die Antwoord

and like you Mike I find JPW boring and contrived, and REM fascinating, funny old world eh ?

Watching Ballen work brought up the same feelings I have when I watch videos of Bruce Gilden working on the streets of NY. I feel uneasy watching what looks like exploitation of the subjects. But then afterward, when looking at the resulting images, I find myself being mesmerized. It seems like ruthlessness is sometimes necessary to get at uncomfortable truths about our culture. Hmmm...?

Like John C. said above, I too am interested in how much production was involved in Ballen's video. Is it a spontaneous view of an incredibly dark spot on the planet, a play inhabited by actors, or something in-between?

This video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfmiYG0FZ5k) has softened my attitude towards Ballen and his work. So thanks for helping me find it.

I see no respect for the subjects in these pictures, human or avian. If I can't see that a photographer is really interested in what he is photographing, I can't be bothered with his images. On the other hand, I can sense some sort of feeling between Witkin and his subjects, albeit of a very strange and disturbing kind, so I can't dismiss his work in the same way.
We have to respect the fact that we are all wired in rather different ways.

This is possibly why the Art movement will always survive, because even if its not always worth looking at, its going to be talked about.

My friend who is all about good vibes and spriituality was quite shaken up by an exhibition of Outland. I took him to see it, and can can clearly remember witnessing his mood change as he was confronted with Ballen’s pictures. He looked like he’d been emotionally hit over the head by the end. He had seen nothing like it before, I’m sure he’s seen nothing like it since, but at least he knows that photography can shake you up a little, even photography you don’t like

I recall his Platteland photos, but hadn't paid much attention to him since then. You post got me researching his work again, and I find it quite interesting so I will have to pick up a few of his still-in-print books. Dark, a bit creepy even, but that makes them attractive to me.

I think you and I and everyone should confront and question our reasons for disliking certain bodies of work. What is it that disturbs us? I'm convinced there's something we can all learn about our own psyche.

When we 1st saw Roger's photographs, many of us felt he abused his position, to get those images.Later I read about his method of working and was impressed.
Yes the images are nightmarish.
That is Africa. That is very much South Africa.
I simply could not live there.
I had photographed the change to Full Democracy.
Look at his images, make a copy and leave it on the fridge door for a time.
I really hate the images, but they are very true!

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007