Menu Close

Roger Ballen: Ballenesque Interview at ASX

“Archetypal symbols from the human subconscious dominate my imagery.”

©Roger Ballen
©Roger Ballen

By Brad Feuerhelm

I chose to reference a modern psychological house or hotel of horrors in which to situate this interview with Roger. I did not feel that I could express the way his work infects my thoughts by regurgitating historical tract or placing uncomfortable cultural analysis on his methodology. That has been covered may times in the past and the work needs less and less validation as one becomes more and more familiar with it. There are questions, but with those already answered, it felt somehow more palatable to speak about it with Roger through symbolism. I appreciate that he took the time and effort to work with what I presented him. I wanted theater and theater I got. Sincere thank you to Roger.

BF: “Tony is the little boy that lives in my mouth”

I feel like I never really understood you or your symbols. There was some desire to place you in a context-a construct of my own reality as if filtered through the commodification of my artistic interest in death externalized by my own architecture in pithy incongruent misgivings of self-loathing and a disobedient compassion for things that make other people look away. I wanted to place you in this box with me, but I never wanted a dialogue. I wanted to retreat, like Tony into my stomach as Danny. I am older now. I have found less compassion in myself, but have justified this with an ability to recognize in others the solipsism that binds us all to the chain of being human-the one-point perspective, the orange carpet and the inevitable moldy shower curtain pinned to the skin of the woman in room 237.

Our future environments are cast from the mold of our youth. We extract and interpret and fabricate our necessities that have been previously dictated to us through our wanders through basements and attics alone and unsure, the single solitary light bulb our only friend-the belief that we have an extra three seconds to run up those creaky stairs before darkness tries to grapple with our untied shoes. It is a reversal of an excavation-it comes from Tony’s home, leaving small chapped lips, catching ever so slightly on the baby teeth we have yet to lose. “Are you lost”? “I’m just …will say anything to you”. “Tell lies”? “Anything”. How were you as Danny? A life…has beginnings…where did you find your symbols?

Please recount your genesis with photography, including your mother’s influence with Magnum. Perhaps speak to us a bit about your travels, Kertesz and South Africa. Did America make your eyes?

RB: A shadow runs through my work. The shadow spreads, grows deeper as I move on, grow older. The shadow is no longer indistinguishable from the person they call Roger. I track my shadow (life) through these images.

It is always difficult to exactly know why one ended up the way one has. Life is not a straight line, nor can we remember all the subtle influences that pushed us in one direction or another. Besides the factors of day to day life, there is something to be said about our genes that separate one living thing from another.

My mother joined Magnum in the late 1960’s and worked as an assistant to some of the most famous photographers in the world. A few years later she started one of the first photographic Galleries New York.

My mother’s passion for photography had a deep influence on me. On the walls of the house were great photographs and the photo books were everywhere. By the time I was 18 years old I had a heightened awareness of what comprised an important photograph.

One of her favorite photographers was Andre Kertesz who I often stated, taught me that photography could be an art form.

©Roger Ballen
©Roger Ballen

(All Rights Reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ Roger Ballen.)

Read the full interview HERE >>> Source: American Suburb X Roger Ballen: Ballenesque Interview