I don’t think I’ve ever had a more difficult time trying to define where a photographer falls in the spectrum of photography than I have in viewing the work of Roger Ballen. His photos from Plattelands his 1994 book on the poverty stricken townships that surround Johannesburg, seem at first glance to fall firmly into the photojournalism camp, but one can’t help making comparisons with Diane Arbus here. While there is a continuity, his later work enters the realm of the surreal. It’s a fine line between documentation and art, but Ballen handles this delicate balancing act with unbelievable agility.
Of photography, he says, “The problem with photography is the mechnics are too easy. Everybody can buy a camera, everybody can take a photo. In fact, photography is a difficult art form to achieve anything with, because there are trillions or billions of images floating a round and you have to create a vision that separates itself from that, and that’s a big job. I tell you it’s not easy.”
If you’ve got an hour to spare, I recommend you take a journey through the pictures of Roger Ballen here. They are absolutely compelling .