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”

  • My point was that the people who used to scream about Elvis are the same who’d vote for the frothy mixture! ;^}

  • Sidney
    Good post,I agree with all you’ve said. I was worried I was the only one.

  • Thomas Alan “Tom” Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor. Waits has a distinctive voice, described by critic Daniel Durchholz as:

    ” sounding “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car “

  • ” 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?”

    Yes, for many, it seems so.

  • is this really the culture we want to create?

    Who is this “we” you speak of kemosabe?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    But do “we” really want to live in a world in which a healthy portion of the young fail to rebel?

  • mw
    Maybe that’s my problem, when I was young, I was never rebellious, and always considered those who were to be self-indulgent and childish. Adolescence, and the associated dis-connect from family to peer group is a pretty recent phenomenon, a kind of a Peter Pan syndrome. Childish people in adult bodies. This was never true historically, and still does not occur in all cultures.

    OK, it’s all about rebellion, and show biz. But is it art?

  • geeez Gordon you sure are sounding a bit pompous there ……maybe just maybe as a child your poop didn’t stink after all you and Barbie must have come out of the same mold.

  • “when I was young, I was never rebellious, and always considered those who were to be self-indulgent and childish.”… thats the saddest thing I’ve read in ages.

  • Back home.. watched the videos with my morning coffee.. back to Ballen’s over and over.. love it.. freaks? Are we not all freaks? I know I am, much more on the inside than on the outside, which is much more frightening actually..

  • @ ANTON:
    Nice talk last week in your hometown with the TEDx.
    Time was like a fuse, short and burning fast!

    “The life is your preparation” great phrase!

    Hope to see that awesome on going projet in the near future.


  • I can’t even remember who, but someone once brought up the late Michio Hoshino to me here. I wasn’t going to post another link to the 1988 great gray whale rescue series that I am currently posting, or anything else until I shed my current burdens but the post I just put up begins with a picture of Michio, so I will link for those who knew or just admired him. The text beneath the picture also describes how, when the opportunity for wealth and frame presented itself to me in living color, I threw it away:

    Off topic, but this seems to be the all purpose thread now.

  • Wow, lots of things to say about all that’s been discussed here (photogs doing video, being or not being conservative if you don’t, rebellious nature of youth) but the few times I’ve tried I’ve just walked away before pressing submit. Been one of those weeks…..

    JOHN G:

    Well according to Die Antwoord Marilyn Manson lives just as he performs. Ballen promo photo here too.


    I just don’t see anything wrong with living your life the way you want to live it. Die Antwoord are not really my cup of tea (I actually find them to be more than a bit juvenile for my tastes) but I’m glad people are making/doing this. It’s the mortgage fund gamblers of the world that are the truly evil ones, the playground bullies. Don’t let the tattoos (or suits) fool you as to who is truly who.



  • . It’s the mortgage fund gamblers of the world that are the truly evil ones,
    that hit the spot..thank u Charles:)

  • “Adolescence, and the associated dis-connect from family to peer group is a pretty recent phenomenon, a kind of a Peter Pan syndrome.”

    Recent? I think Ovid might disagree. ;^}

  • John Gladdy

    Alas, too true.
    I am the sad victim of a happy childhood and adolescence. My selfish single parent mom never gave me an opportunity to resent her for anything, or any reason to rebel. Tragically, I cannot even recall a single occasion where my mom even raised her voice at me. If that was not bad enough, I was always shown love and respect and trust.
    The grim result is what you see before you today: a person who actually loves his life, loves his mom and talks to her every day, and, who still attaches meaning to archaic words and concepts like vulgarity.

    I’m looking for a support group:)

  • Michael K

    Google “extended adolescence”

    A few years ago I attended an all day lecture on the subject. There has been a huge shift within western culture.

  • Gordon, just guessing, but I doubt anyone was bothered by your happy existence, just that you considered those who were rebellious, presumably unhappy, to be self-indulgent and childish. I think you would agree that it’s not cool to look down on unhappy people. I was a rebellious youth who became a for the most part happy adult, so I can see both sides. Adult me doesn’t much like the music or the art but I think young me would have liked it. I certainly liked similar things (see Skinny Puppy). From a critical standpoint, I think the work is very well realized and I don’t see anything morally wrong with it, so it doesn’t really matter much to me if today’s incarnation of me personally likes it or not. More power to those who do, I say.

  • With respect, Gordon…

    I have little use for conservative, alarmist, religious pop-psychology.

    My point is that there is nothing new here. The ancients called it puer aeternus. This behavior, this phenomenon, has been identified, written about and discussed for centuries. And it is not anchored to just “western” culture. Ask any anthropologist.

  • Charles. That doesnt seem to be what they are saying at all. They mention nothing about dress except that they do not know if he had his lens in, and that they went to his house…got drunk.. and hung out in the studio……..Sounds like a normal day for just about anyone in music to me.

    Gordon..your middle names not Oedipus by any chance is it?

  • PANOS,

    OMG! That is one of the funniest videos I’ve seen in a long time! Brilliant!

    JOHN G.

    I think what I was getting at is the Marilyn M. doesn’t go home to a sparkling white Pottery Barn home after he does his thing. It sounds like he honestly lives the trip he’s on (black walls, absinthe bar, etc) and most of the musicians I’ve met that’s true. It’s in their blood. And still, what they do is an act, a piece of entertainment, and I’m pretty sure they know that (at least the smart ones do). They’re just normal people (with a twist). The scary thing is the fans that believe it’s more than that. The pressure must be enormous, esp as one gets older and feeling the need to change or step out. Look at poor Whitney Houston. Anyway, my brain isn’t functioning well this week and this isn’t coming out quite as I’d like.

    Stay true,


  • From a Postcards from America Facebook posting today:

    “Magnum photographers Jim Goldberg and Alessandra Sanguinetti are taking the Postcards RV over the Rockies between March 30 and April 15. They’re looking for someone to come with them. You must:
    1) Have experience with, and feel comfortable, driving an RV.
    2) Have experience working with photography equipment and files.
    3) Be available for an interview in San Francisco before March 10th.
    4) Be available for the actual trip, starting in San Francisco.

    If you’re interested, send a short letter-of-interest containing your qualifications to, together with any questions. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.”

  • John
    People who love their moms all have an Oedipus complex?

    I’m sorry if I came across as looking down on those the rebellious. As a teen, I could never relate, and had little patience for them.

  • Michael K

    “In the 19th century, the American world consisted of children and adults. Most Americans tried their best to allow their children to enjoy their youth while they were slowly prepared for the trials and tribulations of adulthood. Although child labor practices still existed, more and more states were passing restrictions against such exploitation. The average number of years spent in school for young Americans was also on the rise. Parents were waiting longer to goad their youngsters into marriage rather than pairing them off at the tender age of sixteen or seventeen. In short, it soon became apparent that a new stage of life — the TEENAGE phase — was becoming a reality in America. American adolescents were displaying traits unknown among children and adults. Although the word teenager did not come into use until decades later, the teenage mindset dawned in the 1920s.”

    From U.S.

  • Gordon…

    I think it’s fine you love your mum. I personally can’t stand my mother’s guts and I’m sure that is a much more serious problem than any Oedipus complex…. :)

  • Maybe this:

    Afterword from Touch Me I’m Sick:

    Rock and roll reaches deep down inside you and re-arranges things subconciously. It’s been my dysfunctional therapist all these years. I absolutely love it, even crave it. I’m sometimes scared (thrillingly so) of it – of the juvenile, yet strangely profound power it’s had over me. It has soundtracked my life, possibly a conspirator in my ending up in some complex and messy places – and getting back out again. My friend Steve and I call it “volume cleansing”. And It’s not just rock an roll that moves me that way – it’s passionate, gut rippling, heart fluttering music of any kind. I always start madly dancing, air guitaring, buffeting that near nervous breadown – in my living room, in the darkroom, at the show. I am the DJ. I am what I play.

    I’m also the photographer. And I find it hard to talk about what this all means. I never purport having set out to photograph the history of this thing. That’s not my style. I didn’t need to. I was there. I lived it. As it is, being human, there were a great deal of other influences shaping my life at the same time. This is what passed in front of my lens, a reflection of how my brain communicated with eye and finger, inside a rock and roll club. I always had an higher agenda with photography; fine art aspirations. For me, it’s most important the photographs stand on their own as purely great photographs, in the traditional sense of what that means. Try temporarily divorcing the images from our cult of celebrity and that insistent need to categorize. Relish in the detail. Shoes. Duct tape. Hands. Big Muffs. Blurs. Budweiser cans. Torn knees. Ballet. The elements fill the frame – lines converging, textures and patterns re-emerging, negative spaces balancing, scenarios opening; everything perfect – but then not quite.

    An artist can’t ask for more than having people feel something, anything, (especially if it’s good) about their work. I sometimes question certain people’s relationship to this subject matter. I question my own part in it as well. I’d like to think that I championed the story of a supercharged lifestyle of expression, a familial community made up of “stray dogs from every village” who all had the same achy need for something to do (preferably loud and diverting). This story, like any, is deserving of profoundity, albeit I prefer mine steeped in a dose of heavy irreverence. A slight return of innocence. But I can’t, and won’t, forget that it was also a time fraught with selfish abandon, substance abuse, suicide, failed ambitions or, conversely, hyper-realised paths to stardom and ultimate depression. All those things touched my career, and my personal life, in some way, too close to the skin.

    What kept me coming back for more was the fun – the high, divine release that comes from jumping up and down madly for an hour courtesy of your pals, roommates, heroes, beer – whatever – on voice, guitar, drums, bass. It’s about that afterwards sound of your ears ringing and the feel of sweat hitting the cold night air as you reel out of the club. It felt like you were really alive, if only just for a moment. It felt like you were a part of something. I knew that it would end someday and I would need to move on. I had a great time. This is what I did. And I really love these photographs.

    Charles Peterson, March 2003

  • Charles Peterson…

    Brilliant words, highly inspiring and so very true!

  • Okay, request is out and looks most likely to shoot Die Antwoord Monday night. Should be fun!

  • That is a great afterword Charles!


    Thanks for that link and post… such a fascinating story. I was the one who brought up Michio Hoshino some time back… he was a hero to many people I knew in Japan, and something of a shy celebrity in the Japanese mass media. I owned and gave away as presents several of his books, and his death send shock ripples through the nature and outdoor worlds in Japan.

  • Okay, request is out and looks most likely to shoot Die Antwoord

    Charles, I understand some people don’t like them, but isn’t shooting them a bit of an overreaction?

    Sorry, that joke’s not gonna work here. Probably not anywhere.

    Anyway, love your afterword. I’ve felt many of those feelings you describe. It’s great the extent to which you’ve captured all that in your photographs. I only say “the extent” because of your line about “that afterward sound of your ears ringing,.” I’d never verbalized that feeling but physically remember it now that I think back. More importantly though, I think you achieved your agenda. I remembe4 seeing one of your photographs from a distance in the Brooklyn Museum. I didn’t know it was yours. It just caught my attention. Great composition from a distance, then emotional connection from up close. Art at its finest.

  • Bravo Charles!
    can’t wait to see………..

  • Gordon… So? Make your point. Longing for the days when we could legally force 12 year olds to work in the mills? The “teenage years”? What of it? A social construct that means nothing. Again… so what?

  • Wait a minute, I think I’m finally getting it. No child labor laws, no Die Antwoord! Brilliant! Ah.. don’t we all long for the “good old days!”

  • And in full disclosure here is the first music video I directed, circa 1990(1?). $2200 budget Start to finish, two bottles of vodka, a case of beer, a wind up 16mm Bolex with a turret lens (I mostly used the wide of course) and a hell of a lot of fun. Played on MTV’s 120 minutes a few weeks later. Off line was on a two machine Super VHS setup and the online master at the local Christian TV station (they had the cheapest edit suite time). A classic.

  • And a stab at psychedelia all shot on super 8. I think a $1200 budget but that was a loss. Edited on a super vhs setup again. Painstaking…..


    I hope you can watch this all the way through as its specially for you.


    That Love Battery video gave me goosebumps… personally conjured up some feelings of being an unsure 18-year-old again (my age at that time). Very nice – thank you for posting that.

  • John Gladdy

    Many thanks for the link. I’ve not made my way through the whole thing yet, probably won’t have a block of time ’till next week, but have watched about 20 min. Interesting documentary. I’ll let you know my impressions when I finish it.

  • Charles!!!
    Your videos really affected my life and point of views back then…
    Thanks again:)

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