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Selfportrait, Roger Ballen by Vredeveld, Saskia

Selfportrait is a documentary film about the controversial photographer Roger Ballen. Born and bred in New York, he has lived in South Africa for nearly thirty years. The film sketches his development as photographer and, as a side-theme, the development of South Africa. 'Selfportrait' was filmed a few months after Ballen released his book 'Outland'. Outland is the culmination of almost twenty years work for the artist-photographer and amounts to one of the most extraordinary photographic documents of the late twentieth century.

Social Interest
In this documentary film Roger Ballen portrays the poor whites living in villages in the Johannesburg area. The African poor whites are a class that remained hidden and was assumed not to exist. Ballen has taken disturbing photos of individuals living on the fringe of society. Their faces are marked with fear, insanity, disappointment and helplessness. The photographs mercilessly reveal the personal tragedy of these people. The documentary gives these people a voice where the photos remain silent.

Historic Interest
Ballen began his career documenting the small 'dorps' or villages of rural South Africa. Ballen's photography moved on in the late 1980s and early 1990s to their Inhabitants: isolated rural whites, scarred by history, in the process of losing the privileges of apartheid which had provided them 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 progressed again. Where previously his pictures, however troubling, fell firmly into the category of documentary photography, his new work moves into the realms of fiction. Continuing to portray whites on the fringe of South African society, his subjects start to act, providing images which are exciting and disturbing in equal measure. One is forced to wonder, whether they are exploited victims, colluding directly in their own ridicule, or newly empowered and active participants within the drama of their representation.

During his career Roger Ballen has received numerous awards. His work is being exhibited in musea all around the world, including 'The Modern Art Museum' in New York, 'The Stedelijk Museum' in Amsterdam, 'Centre Pompidou' in Paris and 'The Johannesburg art Museum'.

Buy the DVD
You can buy the DVD or order the film for broadcast or theatrical release by sending an email to the director Saskia Vredeveld -

Vredeveld, Saskia
Copyright Holder
Peacefield Films
51 min.
Year of release

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