Roger Ballen: The Theatre of Apparitions

Known for capturing fringes of society, Roger Ballen has started mixing drawing with photography

The American photographer Roger Ballen is known for taking photographs that are psychologically powerful and capture fringes of society.

His latest book The Theatre of Apparitions still plunges the depths of the human mind but is a departure from his usual style. It is a mix of drawing and photography, with images created by spraying paint onto glass before drawing on the paint to let the light through.

In the introduction to his book, Ballen says: “The first of these kinds of images was taken in an abandoned women’s prison during the shooting of my film Memento Mori in 2004[...] A former prisoner had painted over the windowpanes of one of her cells and had then drawn figures into the black paint, leaving herself completely isolated with only the barren cement walls and dim light to comfort her. Shortly after this discovery, I began to recreate images similar to those in the prison using glass windows.”

Roger Ballen is an award-winning photographer who was born in the US but has been based in South Africa since the 1970s. His previous books include Outland, Asylum of the Birds, Shadow Chamber and Boarding House.