Roger Ballen

Roger Ballen – Ballenesque – a Retrospective

23 November 2017 till 30 December 2017

Saturday 25 November, 5-7 pm during the Amsterdam Art Weekend
Artist talk at 5.30 pm
Signing session at 6.00 pm

“My photographs will take you to a world, that has been for many, inaccessible.” Roger Ballen

Reflex Gallery is thrilled to announce a double-sided exhibition of work by internationally acclaimed photographer Roger Ballen. Divided into two, the show will comprise a mini retrospective of 30 or so works, alongside a selection of 150 polaroid images, which condense his singular vision in a small, affordable format.

Ballen is one of the world’s greatest photographers. He picked up a camera in the late 1960s and has never put it down. His extraordinary oeuvre comprises some of the most arresting and original images ever produced. “Ballenesque” – a term firmly part of the lexicon – is synonymous with his rich monochrome vision, his acute psychological insight, and his constant reinvention of his artistic style.

“My purpose in taking photographs over the past 40 years has ultimately been about defining myself. It has been fundamentally a psychological and existential journey. If an artist is one who spends his life trying to define his being, I suppose I would have to call myself an artist.”

Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950, but has lived and worked in South Africa for over 30 years. A geologist by training, his work took him to explore the hidden world of South African towns. There, he produced extraordinary images of the empty streets bleached by the sun, but it was once he started knocking on people’s doors, he discovered a world within, that would have a profound and defining effect on his work. These closed interiors, strewn with mysterious objects, and no less intriguing inhabitants, took him on a path from social critique to the creation of metaphors for the inner mind. “I went inside metaphorically and literally,” he has said.
Ballen’s oeuvre can roughly be divided into series. Each series is captured in his iconic monographs – Boyhood, Dorps, Platteland, Outland, Shadow Chamber, Boarding House, Asylum of the Birds, Theatre of Apparitions – each the result of five years intensive scrutiny behind the lens.

Cell-like rooms, filled with seemingly scrappy, incongruous objects, figures partially concealed, increasingly unidentifiable.
Tangled wires, masks. Birds, cats, dogs, rats, snakes, humans, all rubbing along together – with curiously little domestic feeling. A disturbing, jarring, thought-provoking view of existence.
Chalk scrawls on the concrete walls – painted faces, masks and props, graffiti – an increasing blurring of boundaries between photograph, drawing and painting.
Ballen’s unparalleled output is predominantly a deeply complex exploration of the psyche.

A hit YouTube film, “Ballenesque”, has drawn many into his singular world, uniting his long-term collectors with a younger generation.  (

His video with the cult band Die Antwoord of the song “I Fink U Freeky”, has collected over 100m hits on YouTube, bringing his aesthetic viscerally to life. (

The Reflex Gallery show presents a chance to see a condensed selection of life work in an intimate space. A display of 30 limited edition large-scale images (40x40cm or 80x80cm) from his early work to the present.

“I first started taking polaroid photographs in 1963 after I obtained a camera for my Bar Mitzvah present from my aunt. To this day, I can remember the smell of the liquid that one put over the black and white images to preserve them. Polaroids have always had a magical feeling to them. This was especially true years ago, when it took time to process the images that one shot on film. When I first moved to South Africa I would take polaroid photographs of the African people I met.  Like myself, they were enamoured by this media.”

Commissioned for Reflex Gallery, Ballen has turned his vision to the classic polaroid format, in a selection of 150 unique images. An extension of the series Ballen is working on currently, these polaroids constitute the first display of colour images by the artist during his entire career.

“A photograph has to feel as if it can never occur again.”

This element of the Reflex show presents an incredible opportunity to own an original Roger Ballen image.

The exhibition will be accompanied by two new publications:

Ballenesque, Roger Ballen A Retrospective (Thames & Hudson). A book of nearly 350 pages documents the development of Ballen’s photographic style over a period of 50 years.

Roger Ballen – Polaroids (Reflex Editions)
Published on the occasion of the exhibition at Reflex Amsterdam this publication gives a unique overview of Ballen’s polaroids from 2016 until now.

Roger Ballen’s work is housed in the permanent collections of some of the world’s greatest art institutions from MoMA, New York to LACMA, Los Angeles to The Pushkin Museum of Art, Moscow, Tate Britain, London and many many more.

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Past shows (selection)

Ichwan Noor | Ichwan Noor | Beetle Sphere

26-05-2018 till 30-06-2018

Miles Aldridge | Miles Aldridge | ART HISTORY

07-04-2018 till 22-05-2018

Keith Coventry | Keith Coventry | Junk & Pure Junk

24-02-2018 till 04-04-2018

New Beginnings

03-01-2018 till 17-02-2018

Unseen Photo Fair 2017

22-09-2017 till 24-09-2017

Chen Nong | Chen Nong | Silk Road

16-09-2017 till 11-11-2017

Joel Morrison | Joel Morrison | New Works

06-05-2017 till 15-08-2017

Iris Schomaker | IRIS SCHOMAKER | Come To The Edge

25-2-2017 till 26-4-2017

Unseen Photo Fair 2016

23-09-2016 till 25-09-2016

Marcus Harvey | Marcus Harvey | SHIPBUILDING | New Works

25-11-2016 till 07-01-2017

Sculpture Project Gelderlandplein | Permanently On View

Donald Baechler | Donald Baechler | New Works

16-09-2016 till 15-11-2016

Photo London 2016 Somerset House, Booth no. X2

18-05-2016 till 22-05-2016

Irina Ionesco | Irina Ionesco | Ma réalité rêvée

19-03-2016 till 10-05-2016

Unseen Photo Fair 2015

18-09-2015 till 20-09-2015

Andrew Moore | Andrew Moore | New Works from Dirt Meridian and Cuba

28-11-2015 till 20-2-2016

Todd Hido | Todd Hido|Selections From A Survey: ‘Khrystyna’s World’

12-09-2015 till 21-11-2015

Araki | Nobuyoshi Araki | Alluring Hell

06-06-2015 till 15-08-2015

Araki | Araki | August and Megumi Kagurazaka

20 December 2014 till 28 February 2015

Barry Reigate | One Cannot Get Fingerprints From A Rock

4 October 2014 till 6 December 2014

Unseen Photofair 2014

18-09-2014 till 21-09-2014

Beauty of Darkness II

21 June 2014 till 04 August 2014

Miles Aldridge | One Black & White and Twenty Four Colour Photographs

8 March till 10 May 2014

Robert Yarber | Robert Yarber | Panic Pending

06-12-2013 till 25-01-2014

Artissima 2013

08-11-2013 till 10-11-2013

Harland Miller | Harland Miller | Wherever You Are Whatever You’re Doing This One’s For You

20-09-2013 till 24-11-2013

Unseen 2013

26-09-2013 till 29-09-2013

Something Like Summer

17-07-2013 till 13-09-2013

John Copeland | All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

25-05-2013 till 16-07-2013

Hisaji Hara | Hisaji Hara | A Photographic Portrayal of the Paintings of Balthus

23-03-2013 till 11-05-2013

Arco 2013

13-02-2013 till 17-02-2013

Chen Nong | Chen Nong | Climbing To Moon

29-09-2012 till 31-12-2012

Pulse Miami Contemporary Art Fair

06-12-2012 till 09-12-2012

Daido Moriyama | Daido Moriyama | Journey For Something

19-05-2012 till 28-07-2012

Marcus Harvey | Marcus Harvey | Glass Paintings

07-04-2012 till 16-05-2012

Arco Madrid 2012

15-02-2012 till 19-02-2012

Roger Ballen | Roger Ballen | Animal Abstraction

12-11-2011 till 10-12-2011

Harland Miller | Harland Miller | Rocky 6

09-07-2011 till 13-09-2011

Moby | ‘Destroyed’ – Booksigning and Exhibition

31-05-2011 till 16-06-2011

Araki | Nobuyoshi Araki | It Was Once a Paradise

01-06-2011 till 16-07-2011

| John Copeland | Times of Grace

27-11-2010 till 15-02-2011

Andrew Moore | Andrew Moore | Making History

10-04-2010 till 07-06-2010

Harland Miller | Harland Miller | I’ll Never Forget What I Can’t Remember

18-09-2010 till 09-11-2010

| Kristen as seen by Miles Aldridge and Chantal Joffe

14-03-2010 till 07-06-2010

Alla Esipovich | No Comment

15-01-2010 till 13-03-2010

Contemporary and Vintage Photography

26-09-2009 till 28-11-2009

David Lachapelle | David LaChapelle | The Rape of Africa

06-06-2009 till 31-07-2009

Bill Owens | Bill Owens | Riots & New Suburbia

28-02-2009 till 04-04-2009

Miles Aldridge | Miles Aldridge | Acid Candy

03-05-2008 till 05-07-2008