Zelfportret, Roger Ballen (Selfportrait, Roger Ballen)
'My photos are about me. Every picture reveals another aspect of who I am'. Photographer Roger Ballen's work is controversial. His portraits of poor white South Africans, most of whom he has regularly photographed over the past twenty years, mercilessly display these people in all their bleakness, sadness and chaos. His methods have elicited many incensed reactions. Saskia Vredeveld followed Roger Ballen while he is working with his assistant Jenny da Silva, who treats the posers as if she were their next of kin. It produces saddening, but also cheerful images. The photographer livens things up in the often pitiful existence of his subjects and gives them a face. Ungrudgingly, they go along with his desire for bizarre dramatisations, like the one of a parakeet, sitting on a branch that has been nailed to the wall, above a skinny old lady hidden beneath a blanket. `I feel an urgent need to immerse myself in chaos', Ballen says. `In this way, I can cope with my personal fears.'