South African photographer Roger Ballen will be showcasing his collection at the ongoing 5th Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF) in Singapore, his Southeast Asia debut. The organizers of the festival which began on August 19 have themed it, ‘The Archive’- a theme which blends well with Roger’s ‘Menagerie’ exhibition which will feature some of his best works through the years. The pieces address the spirituality and person of the human being.
Roger’s work has been described as Macabre; it feels peculiar and drawn fresh from the haunted house. However, his imagination is beyond the ghostly fantasy to the reality of the human soul. His art woven within the black and white photos delves deep into the crevices of the Gothic and the reality to exude humanity’s more pronounced allure that hides with the angelic smiles and sighs.
Roger Ballen is considered as one of the greatest photographers of the 21st century with a career that spans over three decades. Although he started off photography as a hobby, it has grown into something bigger than him, putting him on the international platform as an artist with a story. Roger began his photography in rural South Africa, where he was working as a geologist and mining entrepreneur in the 1980s.
In his current exhibition at the SIPF, the Menagerie draws from his 30 year photography that documents human emotion in more surreal and grotesque way.
According to SIPF literature, “Menagerie explores the staging of animals and human’s unexpected intervention that turns out theatrical and illusive to the mind.’ SIPF writes that, Roger’s ‘strange and extreme works confront the viewer and challenge them to come with him on a journey into their own minds as he explores the deeper recesses of his own.’
As Roger guides his audience through the labyrinth of their minds, in retrospect, he is also discovering himself and the things that surround him and makes him who he is today.
Some of the photos on showcase include; “Eugene on the phone”, a black and white photography that outlines the luxury that comes with ignorance as Eugene delves into deep recesses of his whimsy while dillydallying on a coach with his pet cat.
Another photo is the “Eulogy”. It shows a middle aged child playing an accordion while with his legs; he has enslaved a chicken which helplessly lies in wait for whatever its master has planned. The color white of the chicken and the outstretched accordion brings to mind the semblance of sadness in the wake of a lovely jig.
Another notable photo is the “Stare” which burrows deep into the recesses of your brain as to three scary eyes from two faces look at you making you uncomfortable and at the same time stymied.
It is such a collection that sets Roger apart from other photographer. It also opens a can of worms into the individuality of a person and questions the freedoms we really enjoy. Are they just freedoms or some kind of slavery for those who do not enjoy the same?
The Menagerie opened on 20th September and runs till 16th October at the Gillman Barracks. Other first time exhibitors are critically acclaimed photographers: Daido Moriyama, the prolific “Father of Street Photography”, Li Zhensheng, a photojournalist renowned for his photographic records of the Cultural Revolution.
Source: Singapore International Photography Festival.
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