roger ballen – die antwoord

A VIDEO BY ROGER BALLEN                                                   I FINK U FREEKY by DIE ANTWOORD

Many of you may remember Roger Ballen here from his Boarding House essay, also published in Burn 01.  Roger was also kind enough to interact with this audience. This is a very interesting example of a conceptual still photographer making a video. This video took 5 days of shooting, but was “years in conceptualizing”, says Roger.

“We had really clear concepts of what we wanted to do in our heads. We started with my photographs for ideas, and then mimicked them in the sets.” says Roger.

I have watched this a dozen times now, and see some new piece each time. Cannot get it out of my head.


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Roger Ballen



182 Responses to “roger ballen – die antwoord”


    this may be a very slight exaggeration but i swear i have not been alone in a room for weeks…rio started early november and except for some time with mom at Christmas, i been in rio one way or another…behind the camera or making prints and moving them around on the wall and working on a layout…a real mom and pop shop operation….so so so much fun…i just do it..i do not ask anybody for anything…i won’t make any money either , but i do not care..i will have done it..period.

    anyway, i am home alone….afternoon light coming through the loft window….mild sunny winter day new york….my loft in the afternoon is like a womb…you been here, you know what i mean…you can’t get out…right? anyway, i see a joint on the coffee table…i have too much to do to be smoking anything, but well you know yes you know it happened….that put me in the mood to peruse a few comments and low and behold i stumbled across your Hugo video……damn….i mean really….i don’t think i will want to see yours 10 times in a row like i felt with Ballen’s but it sure tripped me out under the circumstances….i am now seriously inspired to make one of these babies…no more traditional stuff for me…i know i am supposedly too old to be doing new shit, and it is dangerous cause people will accuse me of all kinds of things, but i really do not care about that either…i am on to some new might really hate my rio “book” coming…or you will love it….or you will love/hate it…anyway things going forward….for me, and for everybody here……glad you still with us gladdy…and thanks for making the afternoon even more intense than it already was….

    abrazos, david


    did you mean to write “fucked”?

  • Yeah…I’m going to have to watch it a few more times, there’s so much to see!

  • David,

    You really opened up there! not that you conceal anything…meaning you are always open and upfront but that was touching is what I’m trying to say.

    And speaking about videos:


  • David…

    If you do decide to go ahead with a music video may I help you out with composing the music? This is an idea I’ve been chewing in my mind for years…
    Something which would break a few jaws in awe as they heard and saw something extremely different…

  • DAVID:

    I can imagine you making a video with Go-Go bucket drummers in DC.

    I have a question or two for you:

    I seem to remember reading a comment from you in the last 2 -3 weeks about making a print from the Rio iPhone work. Are you using the iPhone with the standard camera app or some other photo app? Is there much Photoshop work (resolution changes etc) being done on the iPhone images before they are printed?

    I’m currently working on a commission and using the iPhone alongside my M6, and in some situations the iPhone is the better camera. Been playing around with Instagram too. I’m a late convert to this stuff! Have you experimented with printing a photograph with Instagram processing applied?


    Justin P

  • I wouldn’t be surprise if watching this video opens the door to still photography to some people.

    Micael , perfectly stated…i agree (and most def you’re not offending anyone :)
    big hug!

    Roger is a MAESTRO…no doubt!

  • ANTON! great to see and hear

  • David, with all these Mike types around, I’m not sure who you were directing that last comment at. In case it was me, no, I didn’t mean to write fucked, though I often do write fucked, especially here, I don’t recall having done it lately. Well, maybe I was a little fucked when I wrote my comments on the latest Juarez piece, but looking back on it there was nothing I would have written when I wasn’t fucked. No, although I usually mean to get fucked, at least in a hetero typa way, if I want to write fucked I simply do. I think that’s usually obvious to all.

    As for the music videos, I could show you a few. Personally, and there’s been a bit of discussion about it here before, the collaboration between Nine Inch Nails and a few videographers is the most successful I’ve seen. The alternate takes on “And all that could have been” are fantastic. It’s rare that the music and the video achieve eauality, but I think that collaboration nailed it. Would be happy to loan it to you. Aforementioned Cure + Tim Pope is worth checking out as well.

  • P.S. hope I don’t offend people by saying this but Roger Ballen just f***** my mind with this one. Amazing work!

    Mike (MW) ,sorry for intervening but i think that David was referring jokingly to Micael’s statement above…
    (previous page)
    big hug

  • …he (DAH) actually clearly (spelled his name correctly above- second comment in this page on top), wrote : MICAEL…

    big hug y’all

  • a civilian-mass audience

    I think he is FREEKY and I like him a lot…

    he has a chicken too…he is our EVIL BURNIAN

    WHAT NOT TO LOVE…!!! GO DIE….!!!

    back to my aisle

  • David..

    People accusing you of what? I quite frankly think you have done enough not only for yourself but for so many others too (just read the EFP post as a last example) that you have every right to do what you want, to take your art wherever you want and where you feel it is right for YOU!

    If people have expectations that get disattended, well, that cannot be YOUR problem.. you owe nothing to no-one.

    And yes, I know, for sure you do not need me to tell you this.. so there..

  • Latest example.. not last..

  • Yea she is a pretty special………. did stuff for Marilyn Manson and the poet himself Leonard Cohen I believe

  • Sorry about the inappropriate humor above. Just fucking around. Going somewhat stir crazy. Still immobile and projects coming on fast.

    Although I like movie videos as much as the next person, the photography is typically just a prop for the music. Even in the best collaborations, it’s still ultimately about the music. That’s why they call them music videos. From a photo-centric angle I can’t think of one music video that’s anywhere near as profound as at least thousands of single still images.

  • I find the music in John gladdy’s latest video well below the quality of the images

  • PAUL

    yes, great idea…i just have a few things to finish on my plate this year…RIO will remain a driving force for a few more weeks….then i move to Family, but there is space within that project to do some other things…sure, let’s collaborate…Burn is going into production anyway…and collaborating with a variety of artists and like minded producers..anyway, stay tuned…stay wired….for example, Rio might seem like it is only my thing, but just use a bit of imagination and you will see i think that it should help all of us…

    i think also we are going to shift things a bit….the emphasis has always been on the emerging photographers here…that works…yet, honestly, and all of my colleagues on Burn agree after 4 years of looking at hundreds of portfolios, the hard cold truth is there is a reason the icons are icons….there may be an icon who does not deserve to be one, and there may be an unknown who deserves to be known, BUT by and large the folks on top are the folks on top because their work is exceptional….almost is almost….

    this is not intended to be disparaging at all…but my main goal all along with Burn has been to make sure some of this audience does indeed rise to the occasion…

    so Burn is going to run more top stuff….not to neglect the emerging…absolutely not…there is nothing i like more than to bring somebody up…getting myself “up” is fine, getting someone else “up” is even better….so, we will focus even more on the emerging, but maybe in a different way, in a different place…

    i will use my time to best advantage…actually what i did more of in the beginning and really mentor a few…we are really really looking into Burn and the new york “kibbutz” as turning into a real school…..a non-profit biz structure…small…classes by the best in new york in my loft and adjoining spaces…also Burn as a producer…using this audience…connections with editors…

    right now we have an assembled cast of film makers, book productions types, field producers etc to take on any creative commission….can i do everything? hell no!! but i know people who can…or know the people who know the people who can….anyway, as you know, i cannot handle lethargy, so i will try to make some truly interesting things happen….be a part if you can…or rather, if you MUST

    cheers, david


    great talk!! we are very proud of you!!


    how in the world do you know the GOGO bucket drummers of D.C. ?

    if there is plenty of light, the iPhone can be amazing….i think everyone knows the low light often kills most iPhone pictures…

    right now i have big prints on my walls..RIO in progress…some w Leica , some w Nikon D700 , some w GF1 and some with iPhone…16 x20 seems fine for the iPhone but not much larger…the GF1 is the most impressive for what it is, an inexpensive point and shoot…60 x40 inch prints from the GF1 look amazing….both the Leica and the Nikon of course are the best in all lighting conditions, but i would defy anyone to choose on my wall right now in anything less than 16×20 which camera belongs to which picture…

    for RIO the iPhone was terrific…fit in with what i was doing…but that is project specific…i doubt i would use it on my Family project…but maybe maybe…

    when all the dust settles, i think for sure my Mamiya VII with b&w film will beat em all….make big prints and large film still rises….

  • IMANTS. Absolutely. It was her Manson videos that first got me interested in her work. Been a big fan for years now.

  • Paul…

    Didn’t watch the video until you said that about the music. And it’s weird because I found the opposite to be true for me.

  • So Paul (or John or anybody), who did the photography for that Amon Tobin music video? I can’t find any credits. And it looks art directed. Guess we could question whether art directed stuff is equal to the loner visions of still photographers of old… Don’t see why not, but it’s a different thing and I am personally not that into it.


    hmmmm, i will take Ballen over Floria from what i see here……lotsa graphics w Floria…clever…but?? maybe as Paul says, it is just that the music here is not as good as the visuals…seems to me a music video needs to grab you right off…Floria doesn’t do it for me personally but i am sure you know way more about this genre than do i…….Ballen has the PEOPLE who are really interesting right off…..Floria doesn’t have the people/subject that get me in the gut….but i will do my homework and go look at her other work…

    later…ahhh, yes The Runaways and The Cure and Bowie videos…yes, amazing work!! just the one here doesn’t move me, but other work absolutely does..knew some of her work, but not the name right off…thanks

    BUT , now the big one…are music videos dead? MTV surely not emphasizing…they do all reality shows….i mean, where can we see music videos? not mainstream tv anymore…is this the place? your thoughts?

  • and now for some comedy relief….high end production value here and funny as can be!

  • Oh! and I just remember this classic!

  • Where to see music videos? YouTube seems to have cornered that market. If market is the right word.

  • This is one of the better at using still photography imo.


  • Meant to say photography, or maybe documentary photography. More video than still actually. Stands on its own with truly great song and performance.

  • speaking of freeeeeky:
    Here is the “King of the Volcano”

    (smile all)

  • mw, that Cash video is indeed beautiful and beautifully put together.

    Die Antwoord’s freakier than thou approach just leaves me feeling like I’ve been beaten over the head..gag me with a dead rat. Pop culture has relied on the gross me out factor instead of talent for impact for years. Kiss, Manson, Alice Cooper etc, it seems that to impress the masses, performers have got to keep upping the ante.
    Pop culture just keeps getting more violent and gross. Flipping channels on TV last night I paused to watch two guys beating each others brains in. Blood all over each other and the ring, the crowd screaming for more. Then another reality channel with guys shooting machine guns and setting off grenades, just for kicks.

    There is no doubt that Die Antvood’s video gets a strong reaction, the comments haven’t been this lively for ages. It is clearly very well put together. But beyond the gross me out, in your face factor, what is it that makes this video so appealing, or ground-breaking?

  • Hey Gordon. I know you addressed this to the other M, but…

    Like you, I’m not a fan of the music, so I appreciate where you’re coming from. However, the video, I find, is just wonderful. It’s beautifully surreal–like his photographs. It held my attention the entire time. I look for (and find!) new things each time I watch it. I would suspect that if Ballen gave his treatment to any musical group you happen to enjoy, you’d be less bothered. The fact that you liked the Cash video I think attests to this.

    An interesting experiment might be to try and watch it with the sound off. Look at it as a visual trip only. I don’t know.

    In any case, it may just not be your thing… which of course is cool, too! ;^}

  • Re; music videos… I’ve always thought that Natalie Merchant’s “Ophelia” was one of the most well thought out “story telling” videos…


    Well, I’ve been to DC at least 3 times, but not recently. In the summer of 1999 I worked for the Smithsonian Folklife Centre / Folkways Records. I was managing the sound recording crews during the folklife festival on the Mall amongst other things. Came across Go Go then. A very interesting subculture.

    Yeah, from looking at the iPhone photos on screen I was thinking 20 x 16 would be max size. I agree that it is not suitable for all projects perhaps, but depends on the intended outcome doesn’t it? My intention was to use it to just provide Instgram updates from the field during this commission and that is what I am doing. But it is an impressive little camera, even for landscapes. Appears to have no shutter lag at all once it is focused. But you know all that already.

    I’m done with big prints, for a while at least. I’ve printed up to 68 x 50 from 35mm Provia and they are very impressive and have great impact in an exhibition but framing those up, especially when using non-reflective uv filtered glass is a major expense. Plus framed prints that size are not easy to move around and install without assistance.

    Decided to go 20 x 16 max for a while, even thinking smaller on a couple of projects, 10 x 8 where the frame becomes part of the presentation. Really wanting to move beyond how people expect photographs to look in a show. But I have never wanted to go just mounted with no frame. I think that is too contemporary looking for my work.

    You never did provide info about the printing of that limited edition Rio mag. Did you use Magcloud?


    Justin P

  • One thing I’ve got against all these videos is how depressing they all are. There’s not the slightest hint of happiness throughout them. Surely there’s a brighter side to life which someone could create a video with?

  • GORDON. MICHAEL K., etc–

    (Where is Jim Powers when we need him most?)

    As I said earlier, Die Antwoord and most of Roger Ballen is way, way past my bedtime.

    Nevertheless, in the spirit of open-mindedness and trying to understand what the ‘younger folks’ like these days, I watched the video twice, and I even watched all the other video examples embedded here by various commentators. I even tried Michael K’s suggestion of watching “Freeky” without the sound, though the truth is I found it far less appealing or even technically impressive that way… the sound is clearly an integral and indispensable part of what is being done.

    Freak shows have always been popular in most cultures, and the desire or need to shock seems to come with the rebelliousness of most generations against their parents. There’s along history of the grotesque in art going back at least to Hieronymous Bosch, picked up in the 19th century by Daumier in France, Kuniyoshi in Japan, and then Audrey Beardsley in Britain, etc,. and of course Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali and many other Surrealists in the 20th century. From the 60s I could point to the Living Theater, Butoh in Japan, and Andy Warhol’s Factory…

    I guess the question that Gordon seems to be suggesting, and I am too, is… are we in new territory these days with a very widespread attraction to the shocking, the grotesque, the revolting, the offensive, the ugly, among young people and the pop culture artists who seem to speak to them and for them? Or is this just another turn of the same wheel that produced the shock art of previous times? Has our youth culture gone over completely to a dark side, where the concentration-camp-victim ‘look’ is glorified and the language, mores, and style come mainly from prison and gangsta culture? Has ‘primitive cool’ triumphed and conquered the mainstream? Is alienation so deeply entrenched?

    Now, I would never tell anybody what they should like and what they shouldn’t when it comes to music or visual imagery or the two together (as long as you don’t force me to listen to it or watch it). But there are culture wars going on all the time. Having been identified strongly on the left-wing, avant-garde, hedonistic fringe of the culture wars of the 60s and 70s, I find it ironic that I now seem to be very much on the ‘other side’ in at least some of the culture wars going on now. (I suspect Gordon may feel the same way). So, OK, I am a clueless non-urban old white dude. I confess I lost sympathy and understanding all the way back with disco and techno music, tattoos, and body piercing. Nothing that has arisen since in pop culture has altered my conviction that civilization has been taken over by brutal barbarians… the people who were playground bullies in my high school… who are creating a world that I will be all too happy to check out of when my time comes, which it will before long.

    So, here’s my question… (and I know all too well how much derision, dismissal, and contempt I will be eliciting from most Burnian hipsters by asking it)… with five thousand years of civilization and literacy behind us, with the vast information resources and incredible technical control over all forms of media now available to so many, with our myriad libraries and museums and universities and theaters, is this really the culture we want to create? Do you really enjoy and feel inspired by watching spastic robot-dancing in filthy bathrooms?

  • “…spastic robot-dancing in filthy bathrooms?”

    That cracked me right the hell up! Sounds like they now have the name for their next album! ;^}

  • I find it stimulating without the need to intellectualize it.

  • This is another video/dvd I love. I think it is the spontaneity, simplicity that makes it work. I also love the way the ambient sounds become part of the performance. The entire product is at the complete other end of the spectrum to Roger’s performance. I suppose you either meticulously manage a video (or any art project); or just wing it; everything else in-between ends up a bit of nothing-ness?

  • But to your larger point, Sidney. I really don’t think it’s as bad as you seem to suggest. From the day Elvis shook his hips on the Sullivan show America has been fearing the coming downfall of civilization. And, like Christ, it’s still coming, never actually arriving. I don’t know if we create culture or if it’s the other way round, but despite Die Antwood, despite Elvis Presley and Little Richard and Marilyn Manson… someone like Rick Santorum can apparently still become President.

    This is ebb and flow stuff. Pendulum swinging. There are still wonderful works of art in all mediums being created and there are ignoramuses with fascist tendencies in the halls of power negatively affecting the daily lives of millions. There are also their counterparts, what I would call the heroes.

    Always been this way. I’m not gonna sweat it. I would say this is “just another turn of the same wheel.”

  • Sidney if you keep on looking at the cladding you will never see what is inside ……….despite that if the bathroom wasn’t left dirty by the previous users it would be clean…………

  • By the way what is a Burnian hipster?……..another new classification for justification!!!!!!!!!/

  • Michael K,

    I hope you’re right… though in some ways I find Rick Santorum just as alarming and discouraging.

  • As mw stated You Tube is a fantastic source though it does take a bit of trolling ….but all these unexpected videos crop up some great, some lousy etc but a great way to spend an hour or two ………cheaper and not as one dimensional as a movie.

    Other than that links just as you see here ……. like minded interest groups on the net ……. we still have 6 hours every Friday and Saturday Night and mix it with short films/ animations from a sister channel, all good
    Facebook links …….generally people love to share stuff

  • Sidney. I hear you..but old folks have been saying the same since greek times at least…and thats what happened…..You got old. I think you need to keep in mind that directors such as floria, whose parents were very cultured opera singers by the way, are working very creatively in a theatrical style. They are making a product for a market. And in Floria’s case really pushing boundaries and breaking new ground, both technically and artistically. Do you really think marilyn Manson goes home at night with a prosthetic eye and wearing cast offs from A Clockwork Orange?, And Alice cooper shows up at the golf club on thursdays with a fucking python round his neck??…ITS SHOWBIZ! THEATRE! They are created entities…Just like Borat.

    But I am totally with you on the “Spastic robot dancing in the bathroom” thing….but check out the resume of the band….been reincarnated more times than buddha…its a showbiz thing…they are character actors like all the rest…they get a hit and the character stays….Again, just like Borat.
    And that video, while undeniably arresting visually, is just an animated ballen freak show….but with actors instead of real freaks.

  • Sidney Gordon you guys seem to be putting flowers in the same vase to make things look pretty without noticing how dirty you are making the water.

  • Michael:

    “someone like Rick Santorum can apparently still become President.”

    I don’t believe it. Someone like Santorum can run for president and perhaps win the Republican nomination, but I really don’t believe he can become President. Of course, George W became President, but in some ways Santorum makes him seem half sane.


    “i swear i have not been alone in a room for weeks”

    Wow! I swear that for the same number of weeks and more, I have been spending 90 percent of my time alone in a room. Well, not quite. There is always at least one cat with me and often two. This will change Sunday, after I land in Arizona and then from there to India. For five weeks, I will almost never be alone in a room. It has been on my agenda to send you a Mormon/Family package and a Kivgiq/Arctic package before I leave, but I am so hard pressed against the wall I don’t know how I can find the time. I think I will just throw a bunch of stuff into my laptop and try to find the time in Arizona, send it from there.

    It’s not for submission, but just to help me get these projects moving forward. Santorum aside, I hope Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination – just to whip up more interest in things Mormon to help get this book published and make people want to read and look at it. Then Romney can get whupped in the general.

    I have no more time to write anything here until maybe from Arizona – but of course, I will find the time to make an encouraging comment to whatever photographer gets a new story posted on burn.

  • Sidney, you’re not alone in feeling the way you do, but like Michael I too think that this is nothing new and just another turn… also, I wouldn’t put those who are attracted to this (or any other dark or freaky) kind of work/lifestyle in the same sentence with moronic zealots like Santorum… freakiness after all requires a kind of open-mindedness, something that people like Santorum lack to the extreme…

  • Sidney,

    I hope you don’t think I was in any way speaking positively about Santorum!

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