Best known for his striking photographs of people on the fringes of South African society, Roger Ballen makes images that are ambiguous and often disturbing, but also shot through with flashes of dark humour. The photographs in Shadow Chamber blur the boundaries between documentary photography and art forms such as painting, theatre and sculpture, challenging the ways in which we perceive the 'reality' of photography. Ballen's images are completely honest, yet also fabricated.
The mysterious, cell-like rooms that Ballen photographs are actual places, but they are unsettling and strange, logical but impossible: their walls are covered with scribbled drawings, stains and dangling wires, the floors are strewn with bizarre props and artefacts. Dogs, rabbits and kittens wander into the frame or are stuffed into unlikely containers. The humans and animals in Ballen's photographs appear isolated and lost, yet strangely empowered at the same time. The resulting images are allegories of lived experiences and surreal takes on human destiny.
In his introduction to Shadow Chamber, curator Robert A. Sobieszek analyzes Ballen's unique approach and sets his work in the wider context of the history of documentary photography and critical theory.
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