The Theatre of Apparitions is an immersive and groundbreaking new monograph by the critically acclaimed art photographer Roger Ballen.
The author of numerous publications, including Asylum of the Birds and Outland, Ballen is best known for his psychologically powerful and masterfully composed images that exist in a space between painting, drawing, installation, and photography. This book is both a departure from his existing oeuvre and the culmination of his unique aesthetic linking image-making and theatrical performance. Separated into seven chapters or “acts,” these Ballenesque images take readers on a journey deep into the subconscious.
Initially inspired by the drawings and marks people make on their environment, Ballen started to experiment using different spray paints on glass and then “drawing on” or removing the paint with a sharp object to let natural light through. The resulting images are like prehistoric cave-paintings: the black, dimensionless spaces on the glass are canvases onto which Ballen carves his thoughts and emotions. Fossil-like facial forms and dismembered body parts co-exist uncomfortably with vaporous, ghost-like shadows—these images have the capacity to shock, inspire, amuse, and even elate viewers. Timeless and innovative, earthly and otherworldly, physical and spiritual, his work transcends the traditional concepts of photography.
Roger Ballen explores a new realm, carving out figures from black paint on glass to create cave-drawing abstractions, with the usual psychological twists. In chapters with titles ranging from 'Eros' to 'Melancholy,' he probes dreamlike corners of the human psyche.
— American Photo
The visual Shakespeare of our time, with good measures of Freud and Jung tossed in, especially Jung!… [Ballen] knows the many parts we play externally in the drama of life, but also most especially the archetypal parts within each of us that are struggling and trying to assert themselves, as some of them may wish to be externalized; they hover, cower, act out the most secret of emotions, desires, fears, and drives, and translate them into potential actions in our everyday existence. The shadows know it all… In collaboration with Marguerite Rossouw, Ballen paints and draws these spirits on windows and other panes, then photographs the results, one-of-a-kind and ethereal as works of art, and short-lived except through the photographs and this book, a source of self-discovery and astonishment for those who dare.
— The PhotoBook
Roger Ballen is an award-winning American photographer who has lived and worked in South Africa since the 1970s. His previous books include The Theatre of Apparitions, Asylum of the Birds, Outland, Shadow Chamber, and Boarding House.