Brutal Tender Human Animal

Roger Ballen photography

Internationally renowned photographer Roger Ballen has produced some of the most controversial images of our times. Brutal, tender, human, animal: Roger Ballen photography is Melbourne's only opportunity to experience the work of this award-winning photographer, and to view the extraordinary images that have placed Ballen at the centre of contemporary photography.

Art Exhibition previously on at Monash Gallery of Art in Australia.
From Friday 04 September 2009 to Sunday 01 November 2009

Dresie and Casie, twins, West Transvaal 1993 image

Published by Monash Gallery of Art on Wednesday 14 October 2009.
Contact the publisher.

MGA is the exclusive Victorian venue for this major survey exhibition. Presenting over 70 gelatin silver photographs made between 1983 and 2007, Brutal , tender, human, animal: Roger Ballen photography includes some of the most compelling and confronting images of our time.

Shaune Lakin, Director of the MGA states “Roger Ballen is one of the world’s most important photographers. As with all great works of art, Ballen’s photographs are at once beautiful and challenging: they raise serious questions about ethics and social responsibility, class and race. This is a rare opportunity to see some of the most powerful images produced in our life-time.”

The American-born Ballen’s photographs document his experience of South African fringe-dwellers. A geologist by training, Ballen began to photograph the houses and townsfolk he met while looking for potential mining sites in the 1970s. These travels took Ballen into the poor rural areas known as dorps . Struck by the isolated character of these places, which were for the most part invisible to those living in cities or larger towns, Ballen began to document the dorps , and in doing so produced some of the most extraordinary social records of the twentieth century.

Ballen has said of this work, “It’s not possible to take good pictures if you don’t have an understanding and empathy with your subjects. I’ve always felt a real closeness towards my subjects and have had a very good relationship with them over the years.”

However, Ballen has been accused by critics of exploiting his fringe-dwelling subjects and their situation. Brutal, tender, human, animal: Roger Ballen photography will given Melbourne audiences the opportunity to consider Ballen’s pictures and judge for themselves whether the artist is indeed brutal or tender.

Ballen was born in 1950 in New York. Ballen has received awards including Best photographic book of the year at the PhotoEspana festival in Madrid and Photographer of the year at the inaugural Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles in France in 2002. His photographs have been exhibited at venues around the world, including the Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Gagosian Gallery in New York, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Brutal, tender, human, animal: Roger Ballen photography was curated by Robert Cook of the Art Gallery of Western Australia and has also been shown in Perth and Canberra.

AGWA exhibition supporters: Wesfarmers Arts–Principal Partner, 303, The Sunday Times , IFAC, Channel Seven Perth, Mirvac Hotels & Resorts, Ernst & Young : Wesfarmers Arts–Principal Partner, 303, The Sunday Times , IFAC, Channel Seven Perth, Mirvac Hotels & Resorts, Ernst & Young.