Regardless of age, people always have the potential to reach for greatness. We believe emerging talents can become successful and famous at any stage of their lives and careers. Roger Ballen is an artist whose work and commitment to photography we admire very much. Although he was active with photography from a young age, he didn't consider himself a serious photographer and artist until he was 50 years old.

We had the chance to talk with him about his story, and we hope that it proves inspirational to any photographers out there who are making good work but are not yet recognized for their talents.


Was there a defining moment that made you take photography more seriously in life?

For the first fifty years of my life, photography was essentially a hobby that I was intensely involved in. In 1994, I produced the book Platteland, Images from South Africa which became internationally known for its depiction of the 'poor white' in South Africa. As a result of the extreme controversy and interest surrounding this publication, I decided to spend more time on my photography, which ultimately lead to the book Outland. During the period from 1995-2000, I started to see myself as an artist/photographer. When Outland was published in 2000, it garnered critical attention as well as winning a number of important awards. From this point on, photography became more than just a hobby.

When did you first start making photographs?

I have been taking photographs since the late 1960s and have been passionately involved in the medium since then. Photography was always close to my being and over time, I became increasingly obsessed with the camera as a means to explore my existence, my psyche.


What was your breakthrough to success?

Since the publication of Outland, my aesthetic has continued to evolve. This is best seen in the books Shadow Chamber, Boarding House and, most recently, Asylum of the Birds. With each of these projects, my reputation as an artist has increased, particularly since I have developed the ability to create imagery that represents a unique aesthetic vision, a vision that could only be created by Roger Ballen. Looking back on my career, it gives me a deep sense of satisfaction that I have committed myself so intensely to creating photographs that, eventually, come to distill the essence of my life.

— Interview by Jim Casper, May 2014


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