52 by 52 7:30am, 5 April 2012
Challenge #32: Close your eyes, turn your eyeballs around. Photograph what you see.
— Roger Ballen

"I have been shooting black and white film for nearly fifty years now. I believe I am part of the last generation that will grow up with this media. Black and White is a very minimalist art form and unlike color photographs does not pretend to mimic the world in a manner similar to the way the human eye might perceive. Black and White is essentially an abstract way to interpret and transform what one might refer to as reality.

My purpose in taking photographs over the past forty 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 guess I would have to call myself an artist."


Shadow Chamber

"In Shadow Chamber, Ballen turned away from documentary photography and bravely took a step that at first sight seems like a dramatic break. The pictures are consciously, even obviously staged, something made all the more evident by consciously placed details. But on second glance, we realize how spontaneous these photographs indeed are.

The photographic - and in a certain sense filmic -dimension of a purely expressive art, which Roger Ballen established in his reportage photography in the 1980s and 1990s, is exaggerated and extremely controlled.

In the precision of the expression achieved, these new works are a milestone in the recent history of photography. At the same time, these photographs are also spontaneous shots capturing the moment. They preserve the external appearance of documentary photographs while finding a new, very personal form for the medium at a time when the foundations of photography are being rocked by the transition from the analog to the digital age."

— Text by Robert Fleck

View the project >


As well as being a good place to connect with other members and share your initial reactions, thoughts about how to 'solve it' and any links you think might help the group, this can also be a good place to include any old photos you have that fit the challenge. We're looking forward to hearing your thoughts this week.

— 52 by 52 team
Emma Georgiou PRO 6 years ago
If anyone gets the British journal of photography, there is an interview in this months addition with Roger Ballen about his work.
Larking About 6 years ago
I love his work especially his earlier more documentary work - I was lucky enough to meet him here in Dublin in the days before children when I would go to every possible photography event !!

This is an interesting one - as a street photographer I see something then take a picture never the other way around - I don't visualize first - I don't know if I can!
TranceGender 6 years ago
Great pics , don't think he had a happy childhood .

To work from a concept , uurgggh , and it is very personal .
Like Larking About , I am focussed on the street but I see maybe way to make it work , to move a bit more to the abstract maybe and look for things ( reflections maybe ) where I can insert myself in some way that can tell about myself .

Off to a brothel window .
Mark W Russell 6 years ago
B&W, eerie, surreal,...reminds me of some of my worse dreams.
TranceGender 6 years ago
I made this one for this chalenge but I uploaded with photobucket so it is not on my Flickr stream but I just liked the challenge .
I can't even say if it is any good or bad but I don't think that is important .

It is about me and what I see when I walk in my neighbourhood with my camera , my eyes go left and right picking up images , moods , movements , details , eyes of others , colors and shapes .
All this stuff goes in my head and sometimes that is uplifting and sometimes it is not .

Mark W Russell Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Mark W Russell (moderator) 6 years ago
Is there a reason you have not posted this as your response to the challenge? I think it is a fascinating image.
It stands on its own and does not need any explanation or other defining.
I think it is a brave picture in that you have stepped out of the comfort zone of your usual subject matter/style yet have maintained a reference to "the street".
It gets the nod from me.
Mark W Russell 6 years ago
Show of Ballen's work:-

@ Manchester Art Gallery
Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL

Shadow Land: Photographs by Roger Ballen 1983-2011
Friday 30 March 2012 - Sunday 13 May 2012
johnpaddler PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by johnpaddler (member) 6 years ago
'You cannot get a photo of a Tokoloshe, but you can get a
photo of a person who is being attacked by a Tokoloshe'
- from a video by South African zef/rap/rave group Die Antwoord

but now Roger Ballen will work with them
Mark W Russell 6 years ago
@ johnpaddler

Here is a link to the 'I FINK U FREEKY' by DIE ANTWOORD video

Directed by Roger Ballen & NINJA
Director of Photography Melle Van Essen
Edited by Jannie Hondekom @ Left
Post Production by Blade

johnpaddler PRO 6 years ago
Thanks Mark. Interesting - some parts verging on animated stills.
Julia M Cameron PRO 6 years ago
Looks like this is going in the direction of dreams (bad) , nightmares and the surreal perhaps with a bit of occult thrown in....a doddle!!!!
TranceGender 6 years ago
@Mark , well yes , it doesn't really fit in my series so that is 1 and the second is that although I liked the challenge , I have no idea about this kind of style , working from a concept in this way .
I wait what the others will post , maybe the drowing of their kitten or rows of dolls with eyes stabbed out , or flowerfields and fluffy bears so then I can see more ways of aproach .
Till then I keep him here , safe and sound and locked up .
Julia M Cameron PRO 6 years ago

Work in progress
david_gillett Posted 6 years ago. Edited by david_gillett (admin) 6 years ago
I completely agree with Mark, it fits the challenge perfectly... dark, enigmatic, dreamlike.

"Roger Ballen is currently involved in a project photographing birds in a strange, surreal and complex world."
david_gillett Posted 6 years ago. Edited by david_gillett (admin) 6 years ago
Roger's style is so distinct and the way in which he solidifies intangible thoughts is so deft that it cast a shadow over the challenge which I found hard to escape! For me it's the toughest challenge yet. In the end I decided to go for something quite simple rather than try to tackle a grand theme.
#32 by david_gillett

Has anyone else struggled?
Mark W Russell 6 years ago
I'm off to see the Roger Ballen show in Manchester this morning. Lets see if it gives me any inspiration! Also off to see 50 years of the Sunday Times Magazine show (and visit two of my favourite 2nd hand camera shops in the UK)
Julia M Cameron PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Julia M Cameron (admin) 6 years ago
Mark, you are very fortunate...have a great time.

A general thought.....
I think it would be a mistake to try to emulate Roger Ballen, instead, find your own creative ideas and interpretations of them photographically.
johnpaddler PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by johnpaddler (member) 6 years ago
A little emulation shouldn't hurt?

One of the best things about 52by52 is becoming aquainted with the work and ideas of so many exciting photographers, not least Roger Ballen. Big thankyou to David!

Rodger's Outland, where he moved off the street into people's homes, and the idea of what might appear strange being normal, sent me looking at some photos from England taken in 2009.

R0910291634C7 PA293164s
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