“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.”
Roger Ballen is one of the most original image makers of the twenty-first century. Asylum of the Birds showcases his iconic photographs, which were all taken entirely within the confines of a house in a Johannesburg suburb, the location of which remains a tightly guarded secret. The inhabitants of the house, both people and animals, and most notably the ever-present birds, are the cast who perform within a sculptural and decorated theatrical interior that the author creates and orchestrates.The resulting images are compelling and dynamic, existing somewhere between still life and portrait. They are richly layered with graffiti, drawings, animals, and found objects. In a world where photographers seek to avoid definition,Roger Ballen is a true original who not only defies genres, but has defined his own artistic space as well.
The new documentary short “Asylum of the Birds,” directed by Ben Crossman, depicts the people and places that are the subject matter of his newly released book, Asylum of the Birds, published by Thames & Hudson. It follows Roger into a bizarre compound outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, where refugees and escaped mental patients live together with birds and rats. This film contains images that will be hard for you to forget.