Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Roger Ballen Bootleg?






NYPH08 went down last week and everyone is buzzing about the Roger Ballen lecture.

Anyone out there have a transcript or a video of this important moment in the history of photography?

Read about the lecture by Michael David Murphy HERE. Read more about Ballen's philosophy on Colin Pantall's blog HERE.

Obviously I like his work. It seems that in photography, there always needs to be a boogyman, a badguy, the scary kid...it almost is an archetype. The last big one was Joel Peter Witkin, whose work at this point seems comforting and familiar. Messing with body parts, reconfiguring corpses, propping up bodies for his art historical homages, and photographing disfigured people with this attitude of revering and honoring them. Ballen's work is the new boogyman, the new scary kid. Absolutely un-empathetic, his subjects seem like they couldn't really consent to what they are participating in, even if they could understand it. It's crossing all of these lines, and is still seeming to come from an authentic place. It's for all of these reasons, these mixed emotions, that I am fascinated by it.

11 comments:

Erich Morton said...

Historically, who's the first boogeyman photographer?

I'm going to suggest Matthew Brady.

Timothy Archibald said...

Good question. I'd suggest Meatyard, but Brady is like the first photographer ever, isn't he? Why is he a boogyman though? Please defend.

Russell Kaye said...

Brady supposedly dragged bodies around the battlefield arranging them in more "scenic" locations. I think there was some proof that he reused the same dead soldier in a few locations. Try google with "Devil's Den" + Matthew Brady.

Darrell Eager said...

Joel Peter Witkin could be a big boogeyman if he wasn't so nice.

Timothy Archibald said...

I'm not thinking Matthew Brady is a good fit here, because his subject matter, the war, seemed to carry the power and it had the packaging of documentary, despite what he was creating. I'm refering more to folks like Francis Bacon, Edgar Allen Poe, Meatyard, people whose work and at times their created persona dealt with creepy scary stuff. Not Larry Clark or Hunter Thompson, not this type of bravado and "edgy" lifestyle persona, but more of in the realm of the creepy, scary, home made haunted house variety.
Of course JPW is most likely nice, though he was known for being photographed in a mask back in his heyday...which that alone is something to be noted because he is actively trying to create a theatrical persona. Now we have Ballen creating a creepy Mr. Rogers stage performance for his work, as reported by those who saw him at NYPH08, which is another way of actively creating a persona to fit the work.
Don't get me wrong, I'm an not against any of this....I'm all into the theatre of the person, for sure, and when one can pull it off on a large scale, all the better.

Nigel Gregory said...

Not sure if you know this, he has a DVD out where you see him revisit some of his subjects and then goes on to shoot some more on a housing estate in South Africa. It is quite amazing and an interesting film. I got my copy at PhotoEye in Santa Fe.

colin pantall said...

Hi Tim - Donigan Cumming has to be a bit of an influence on Ballen too. He's strangely compelling in the same way.

Erich Morton said...

RK already stated the best defense I could come up with for Brady being a boogeyman, but I'm going to withdraw my suggestion after having checked in with my History of Photography book.

Brady seemed to be trying to elevate photography, or daguerreotypery, from it's spot as craft to art. Not really boogeyman behavior.

Stan B. said...

Personally, I gotta go with Ballen's straight portraits- those were truly intriguing, and frightening. These later concoctions, not unlike Witkin's work, just strike me as trying way too hard...

Anonymous said...

Beautiful exhibition of photographer Roger Ballen at BNF, Paris. Caroline-Christa, Paris

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