Outland is the culmination of almost twenty years of work for artist-photographer Roger Ballen and amounts to one of the most extraordinary photographic documents of the late twentieth century. Beginning with the small ‘dorps’ or villages of rural South Africa, the subject of Ballen’s photography moved on in the late 1980s and early 1990s to concentrate on their inhabitants: isolated rural whites, scarred by history, in the process of losing the privileges of apartheid which had provided them with livelihoods and sustained their identity for a generation. The results were shocking, both powerful social statements and disturbing psychological studies. Through the late 1990s and into 2000, Ballen’s work has progressed again. Continuing to portray whites on the fringe of South African society, his subjects begin to act. Where previously his pictures, however troubling, fell firmly into the category of documentary photography, his new work moves into the realms of fiction. Ballen’s characters act out dark and discomfiting tableaux, providing images which are exciting and disturbing in equal measure. One is forced to wonder whether they are exploited victims, directly colluding in their own ridicule, or newly empowered and active participants within the drama of their own representation.
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