Tag Archives: Roger Ballen

Romka magazine: a collective photo-album

Romka magazine, Issue #7

I wrote about Romka magazine over on the eyecurious Tumblr some time ago, but I will confess to never having picked up a paper copy before, so the latest issue (#7) is the first I have been able to flick through. The conceit is a simple one, “favorite pictures and the stories that lie behind them” by pros and amateurs alike. No book reviews, no interviews, no ads… no excess fat. The result is a kind of crowd-sourced collective photo-album, which makes it sound terrible when it is really quite good. Romka simply does what it says on the tin: it presents a series of single images by photographers (that might be Roger Ballen or it might be Sachi “the builder who lives in a pink house in New Orleans”), each accompanied by a short text explaining what that image means to them. It is a very simple recipe, and like many simple recipes it is hard to get right, but when it works it is rather delicious. Although it follows a fairly strict formula it doesn’t feel formulaic because of its democratic, all-inclusive approach to images and because it helps to reveal some of the myriad reasons why photographs matter so much to people. This simple formula also makes it refreshingly different to most other photography magazines out there.

I have done a lot of wondering (to myself and sometimes out loud) about whether the photo album has become irrelevant today given the changes in the way that we make and look at photographs… Romka makes me think that there is life in it yet.

Romka magazine, Issue #7

Romka magazine, Issue #7

Romka magazine, Issue #7, November 2012, edition of 1,500.

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Photographers-Turned-Directors: Susan Bright’s Favorites on MOCAtv

In July 2012, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA) asked me to compile a playlist of videos directed by photographers for their new online series, MOCAtv. Launched last week, MOCAtv bills itself as the “Global Contemporary Art Channel,” providing a wide range of content related to the arts. Looking to see if photographers’ skills translated into music videos was one of the most enjoyable commissions I have ever had.

My personal interest in music videos is mainly autobiographical. I was a teenager in the 1980s—the heyday of the music video. Videos were crucial to bands’ identity; it was really the only way, apart from photography, that an image was disseminated to the world. MTV was the dominant force, but if you grew up in Britain, it was the quaintly titled BBC show Top of the Pops that was one of the only ways to see them.

Looking back at these videos has evoked amazing memories, but at times, I view some videos with a new perspective and appreciate them now because of who made them and how they look. For example, the mesmerizing Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer was always incredible – but now that I know it was directed by the great British fashion and portrait photographer Terence Donovan, all I can see are the similarities to his later photographs of the 1980s with their strong, almost aggressive, female glamour.  It’s interesting to note where the photographer’s hand is so apparent and successful, and elsewhere, when they lose something of their signature flair by having a moving camera instead of a still shot.

Like many, my introduction to music came via my older brother. Always one step ahead of me, he had very sophisticated taste. My first concert was Souxsie and the Banshees when I was 14. Somehow I managed to persuade him (and more miraculously my parents) that I should go along with him and a gang of heavily hair-sprayed goths. It was not the music that I particularly remember, but the amazing beauty of this particular strand of post punk music. From that moment I was addicted to live concerts and the performance of dressing up.

I knew about New Order due to my brothers liking of Joy Division. I saw them perform that summer and their shortened remix of Blue Monday (1988) is like a backing track to those heady months, which were incredibly hot and renamed by many of my contemporaries as ‘the summer of ale.’ I was 18.

When I was asked to put this playlist together I couldn’t believe that I had never seen the video. I was so delighted that it was done by William Wegman. It is full of lovely references for me. Wegman is an artist who manages to have conceptual credibility and respect in the art world and also make calendars with puppies. I can’t think of any one else who manages such success in both commercial and art worlds with such ease and lack of compromise on either side. His ABC video Alphabet Soup featuring Fay, Batty, Chundo and Crooky is my favorite gift to all new parents; my daughter’s go-to bedtime book is Wegmonolgy and my brother has Weineramas. It’s like all good things in my life are condensed into this one video.

A year after Blue Monday, New Order released Run and asked Robert Frank to direct it. This video combines many different kinds of video techniques into one film. It has both live footage and a narrative. It also uses still photographs many times. Nothing is really explained but it has that coldness, disconnect and mystery which is so crucial to a Frank photograph. The song is not the strongest, but you are held utterly by the video. The ending is pure Frank: it stops on a still photograph where everyone is looking in different directions and the scene is chaotic but happy. In two takes he goes closer in to the black-and-white photograph with a woman clutching a book titled listen to god. About two seconds of existential anxiety almost lost as the song fades out.

Staying in the 1980s is Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, directed by Herb Ritts. This song, which came out in 1989, was reinserted into popular culture when it was used in a scene of Wild at Heart by David Lynch. The video is trademark Ritts. The female body (Helena Christensen) is Amazonian—sexy, strong and very much associated with the 1980s before the AIDS crisis (although of course the AIDS crisis had very much gripped huge swaths of society by this time). It’s crisp, clean and erotic. He shoots from many angles so the body, although always sensuous, can also become abstracted. This photographic technique, which Ritts has become so famous for, was most eloquently played out in a photograph of five of the most famous supermodels gathered together naked (Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, 1989) their limbs lending graphic strength and dynamism to the composition of the picture.

Die Antwoord, I Fink U Freeky directed by Roger Ballen (2012) practically went viral among photography circles recently. The video starts with “Die Antwoord in Association with Roger Ballen.” This is the first time I have seen musicians and the director on equal footing, especially when the band has a much bigger global presence than the photographer.

Ballen has lived and worked in South Africa for most of his life. His work is a swirling mix of reality, fantasy, documentary and personal investigation. He photographs in the poorest white areas of South Africa, and his work is immediately recognizable for its disturbing almost nihilistic qualities, which are confusing in terms of ethics and morals of representation. This video is like a zooped up, hammy musical journey through his work and is so well suited to the band, who have a trickster element to them. They are the perfect artistic combination.

Another South African photographer, Pieter Hugo, has directed Spoek Mathambo, Control which was originally recorded by Joy Division and has again been introduced to a younger generation through the biopic of Ian Curtis in the film Control by Anton Corbijn (who has also done a large number of music videos). Again this has similar elements to the Ballen video in that reality has been pushed to appear fantastical. Of all the videos selected it is the most ‘photographic,’ and you can really see Hugo’s skill in using backdrops to create scenes. If you were to go through freeze framing it each scene could work beautifully as a photograph. It reminds me of his Nollywood series about the horror film industry in Nigeria. For this he took costumed actors and put them into the street causing a tension between reality, fantasy, horror, staging and theater. This video has all of those elements and similar references to the genre, but was filmed in a township in Cape Town. It’s the best cover of Control I have ever heard, making it absolutely belong here in South Africa and not the North of England.

Music videos act as lightening rods to memories. Headier than photographs they possess the most potent Proustain links to the past. When they are at their very best, like the ones I have mentioned here, they are like stills come to life. Photographers can offer a particular way of looking at the world. When that coincides with a similar musical vision the results can be spectacular.

Susan Bright is a New York-based writer and curator. You can see more of her work here

View more of MOCAtv’s programming on their YouTube channel.

Update on 500 Photographers

Dear readers & followers,

After a silent period I thought it was time to let you know what is going on at 500 Photographers so you know what to expect the coming months and ofcourse to let you know when the remaining 45 photographers will be posted.
500 Photographers has been asked by Guatephoto, a photo festival in Guatemala city in November, to create a projection that will be shown at the new gallery of La Fototeca. In the converted movie theatre they will be placing four large screens projecting the work of this website and three other well respected and known websites simultaneously. Currently I am curating and producing the projection to make something that should make some jaws drop. Throughout the city there will be exhibitions including work from acclaimed photographers as Roger Ballen, Maleonn and Erwin Olaf.

At the same time I’m looking for the remaining 45 photographers that will be featured on this website to complete the list as well as creating things to be done after the website is completed. If you still want to suggest yourself or someone else you believe should be included: now is the time. Check the suggestions page and send me an e-mail. Make sure the photographers you suggest are truly special image makers with a clear signature.
As quality has been my highest priority throughout the process of creating this website, I’m not yet going to pinpoint the exact moment when the photographers will be posted on here, however, it should not be too long from now. I’m excited about the festival in Guatemala, and excited to be finishing 500 Photographers.

To make sure you don’t miss the moment when 500 continues you can subscribe to the rss feed above or like the facebook page.
For those people going to Guatephoto: it would be wonderful to meet you.

Friendly greetings, Pieter Wisse

Conquering composition with Roger Ballen

© Michael Grieve/1000 Words

Since 1000 Words started organising workshops in Morocco, every photographer and creative who has led them has pushed their own particular strengths in a steadfast manner. Antoine d’Agata constantly asked “what do you want”, Anders Petersen insisted to ‘shoot from the gut’ and Erik Kessels conceptualised the found image. Roger Ballen’s mantra was to emphasise the formal qualities of the picture. Sufficient attention to what makes a picture work is often overlooked and taken for granted. Photographers wonder why their images are weak and more often than not it is because they have overlooked the most basic yet complex issue of composition.

Roger Ballen is very precise and tireless in his deconstruction of the photograph to understand and achieve the perfect pictorial balance. He understands that photography is hard work in a snappy happy world. Ultimately, the success of a photograph relies on the arrangement of the content within the frame devoid of ‘negative space’.

1000 Words Workshops in Fez are challenging in different ways. The medina, with all is chaos and contradictions, provides the perfect capsule to transport your creative concerns into unknown territories. The photographers participating in the workshop were prepared to undo their preconceptions and raised the stakes in order to unlock new chambers into an imaginary world. Thanks to the following for joining us on the creative odyssey:

Jorg Sundermann (Germany)
Marlene de Lazaro (Cuba)
Mark Lanning (South Africa)
Sjoukje van Gool (The Netherlands)
Roger Mavity (UK)
Rob Houkes (The Netherlands)
Aurora Molina (Cuba)
Pier Filippo d’Acquarone (Italy)
Silvia Castro Yapur (Argentina)

1000 Words would like to thank Roger Ballen, a true gentleman, and his fabulous assistant Margeurite Rossouw. As always many thanks to photographer and good friend Omar Chennafi for his local knowledge and beautiful spirit. And Sean Stoker, 1000 Words Editorial/Programme Assistant, for his hard work, dependability and positive attitude. Finally, to Vanessa Bonnin for her hand in helping to deliver another successful workshop. A photo album of the workshop can be viewed on our Facebook page here.

apertureWEEK: Online Photography Reading Shortlist

Aperture aggregates the best posts from this past week in the photography blogosphere.

  • LightBox presents an essay written by Tim Hetherington, who was featured in Aperture issue 204, from the new book Photographs Not Taken, one year after the photographer’s death in Libya. The collection, compiled by Will Steacy (one of Aperture’s Green Cart Commissioned photographers), also features essays by Roger Ballen, Ed Kashi, Mary Ellen MarkAlec SothPeter van Agtmael and more. Additionally, PDN features an 8 image retrospective by Hetherington, whose work is now on view at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York (through May 12, 2012).
  • This week in commentary: LPV Magazine  digests Instagram articles by Om Malik, the New Yorker’s Ian Crouch and New York Magazine’s Paul Ford, finds out, “Facebook Buys Instagram, Some Photographers Sad.” APhotoEditor reads Paul Melcher‘s poignant article on La Lettre de La Photographie alongside Marc Andreessen‘s WSJ piece “Software Will Eat The World,” and explores “how a company with 13 employees and no profits [Instagram] can replace a now bankrupt company [Kodak] that once employed over 120,000 people with annual sales of $10 billion as the ‘manufacturer’ of a device to bring photography to the masses.” In related news, NPPA opens a mobile phone photo contest, calling for entries through Sunday, April 22, 2012, while Magnum Photos has deployed another team to Rochester to document the once-vibrant home of Kodak as part of their Postcards From America series.
  • Poynter investigates the controversy over the Pentagon delaying the LA Times from publishing photographs of US soldiers posing with the body parts of Afghan corpses, a story which has since elicited over 2000 comments on the Times’ website.
  • Sophie Calle, featured in Aperture issues 191 and 142, talks to the Guardian about her best shot from the series Voir La Mer, in which she “took 15 people of all ages, from kids to one man in his 80s, to see [the sea] for the first time.” She photographed them from behind so as to not obstruct their initial encounter, and she captured the entire process, including their reactions, on video. Her current exhibition, Historias de Pared (at Museo de Arte Moderno Medellín through June 3, 2012) is reviewed on Fototazo.
  • In honor of Albert Hoffman’s infamous Bicycle Day (April 19), LIFE Magazine shares a number of never-before-published dream-like photographs that were to accompany an original 1966 article titled, “New Experience That Bombards the Senses: LSD Art.”
  • American Suburb X shares journal entries from William Gedney on “Kentucky, Sex and Diane Arbus,” alongside scans of the archival material culled from the Duke University Rare Books and Manuscript Library.  Speaking of rare books, ICP Library profiles some of the innovative and experimental photobooks they found and photographed at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair last week.
  • Time Magazine releases their annual list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World,” alongside a portrait gallery of 24 of the honorees.  Included this year is artist Christian Marclay, of the monumental video installation recently purchased by MoMA, The Clock, and the 2007 Aperture monograph Shuffle, which takes the form of a deck of cards. The Clock will be shown for free this summer from the middle of July to mid-August at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium. Stake out your places now!

The Search for the Best New Black-and-White Photographers

Last December, Gomma publishers—a small imprint in London with a magazine by the same name, or what founder Luca Desienna calls a “bijou” publishing house—set out to find the most exciting new talent working in black and white photography today. To begin the process they assembled an international panel of experts and curators from around the world that included Christian Caujolle, Yasmina Reggad, Peggy Sue Amison, Tom Griggs, Wayne Ford, Jörg Colberg and John Matkowsky to create a new publication called MONO. The fundamental idea for the new publication was to expose emerging talent to a wider audience by publishing them alongside more established artists pushing the boundaries of the medium, such as Roger Ballen, Daido Moryiama, Anders Petersen, Trent Parke and many others.

“Gomma was formed in 2004 by four friends and artists aspiring to create a new publishing space for photographers,” says Desienna. ”Our major inspirations were the influential Japanese magazine Provoke from 1968 and Permanent Food by Maurizio Cattelan. Since the first days of Gomma we’ve been always publishing black and white photography—it is and always will be one of the most extraordinary art forms that enables us to document the world we live in … and also what is beyond it or underneath it.”

This year’s winners of the MONO open call for entries are: Daisuke Yokota, Maki, Tricia Lawless Murray, Francesco Merlini, Jan von Holleben, Jukka-pekka Jalovaara, Sofia Lopez Mañan and Stephane C. Their work will be featured in the first edition of MONO to be released this fall.

Desienna says there has been a renaissance among the image makers working in black and white. “With the advent of digital photography, taking pictures has become sort of more accessible for everyone,” he says. “While black and white photography, which is often associated with analogue photography, has become rarer and rarer. Agfa collapsed, and films and chemicals started disappearing, so as it happens with anything that gets near to extinction, it just becomes more valuable.” At the same time, Desienna says great new digital, black-and-white photography has added to the exquisite and timeless world that monochrome images create. “We don’t see the world in black and white so this is probably why we are so attracted to it,” he says. “In addition I believe that black-and-white photography has the capability to show the inner moods of the photographers better than colors do.”

For more information visit Gomma Books and check out Gomma Magazine online.

Playpen by Roger Ballen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room of the Ninja Turtles, 2003, © Roger Ballen

Exhibition on view:
March 22–May 11, 2012

North-West University Gallery
Potchefstroom Campus
548 West 28 St
018 299 4341

Playpen by Roger Ballen is a compilation of over thirty years of documentation of children, the environments they inhabit, their toys, and drawings. These images, a new body of work, Asylum, and an installation constructed specifically for the gallery will be exhibited at North-West University. Ballen’s Playpen explores photography as an art form as it takes on painterly yet sculptural roles and interacts with the viewers own childhood memories and adolescent dreams.

Children’s faces hidden by masks and crude wall drawings eerily linger throughout the black and white images by the South African photographer.

Ballen is featured in Aperture issues 201 and 173. His work also appears in The New York Times Magazine Photographs (Aperture, 2011).

1000 Words Photography Magazine #13

We are proud to present issue 13 of 1000 Words, Uncertainty, our first release of 2012. To view it please go to www.1000wordsmag.com



I can make no statement about reality clearer than my own relationship to reality; and this has a great deal to do with imprecision, uncertainty, transience, incompleteness, or whatever. But this doesnt explain the pictures. At best it explains what led to their being painted. So said Gerhard Richter whose paintings have taught us a thing or two about such matters.

Photographys own intriguing relationship to uncertainty is what we have set out to enact within the current edition of 1000 Words. BuyCableDeals.com Comcast Deals . Featuring Roger Ballen, Natasha Caruana, Viviane Sassen, Raymond Meeks and Deborah Luster, Christer Strmholm and W.M. Hunt alongside essays, reviews and interviews by Gerry Badger, Sue Steward, Peggy Sue Amison, Louise Clements, Michael Grieve and Brad Feuerhelm, the bodies of work in this issue tap into a fundamental mood of uncertainty and reveal some of its dimensions of expression: the mystery caused by a lack of knowledge on the part of the observer or the fraught politics of representation when portraying the other; the unnerving combination of a documentary approach with staging and construction or the ambiguity between fact, fiction and stories; the experimental inaccuracies of an image or the fragmented and indeterminate narratives that typify many of today’s photobooks are all but a few examples.

In the dedicated Books section, we cover Christian Patterson, Morten Anderson and Ori Gerhsts recently released titles with reviews from Michael Grieve, Sean Stoker and Oliver Whitehead.

At best, photography should embrace the most difficult things of our world – the dissonant, the awkward, the unclassifiable – in order to help us posit new understandings of what it means to be a human being. It could be said that photography which is analogous with existentialism, an investigation of subjectivity, is the kind of photography that has the most beauty, poetry and truth, especially at a time when the world seems all too unsure of itself.

Once again, 1000 thanks to all the photographers, writers, editorial and art departments as well as of course our advertisers for making this magazine possible.