A few years ago, I found an old house in Johannesburg, South Africa. This place has become the focus of my photography for the past few years. Inside this house live a motley bunch of people from various spectrums of South African society. Living along side these people are large amounts of wild birds that inhabit this space and exist alongside the inhabitants. The birds are not in cages and have the freedom to move throughout the place. Most rooms in this house are quite barren and the inhabitants have taken to drawing figures and faces on the walls. Besides the birds, the place is full of rats, mice, cats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, etc.
It has been quite a revelation working in this house for the past number of years. Whilst this environment would likely give many people ‘nightmares’, it has given me a more profound understanding of the ‘true nature’ of living organisms inhabiting our planet. In this microcosm, I have been better able to discern what is fundamentally similar to all species and what differentiates one from the other.
I think the content of my work approximates a point between surrealism and Art Brut. Whilst these movements originated from painting, my images are not paintings, they are photographs, and as a result I have to work within the confines of this media.
I believe that my photographs are predominately psychological in meaning and ultimately emanate from my psyche. I have never considered myself a photo journalist or politically orientated photographer. It is my opinion that the most important political transformations are psychological and that if my photographs transform the minds of the people who view them then I have altered their political consciousness.
(Roger Ballen | Birds, PRIVATE 54 – LOST, pages 8-13)