Boarding House is the new book from photographer Roger Ballen (1950), an American who lives and works in South Africa. His work portrays a strange and alluring place in Johannesburg crowded with impoverished workers, transients, children and animals. The main characters become actors in their own reality. Hard light and grey tones turn the frames, photographs and drawings on the wall into pieces of scenery. Yet, the theatre in Boarding House is not a traditional boarding house, where you rent a room for a night. Instead, Ballen shot his series in an abandoned industrial building. It has improvised rooms, marked with uninhibited expressions of enchantment and brutality. Objects and inhabitants from Boarding House act as props, which Ballen carefully arranges. He insists that an element of fiction is essential for learning more about the human psyche and about his subjects. This collaboration between an artist and his subjects results in artistic, ambiguous photographs. The images are full of detail and black humour. Boarding House is not a place you visit everyday, but one you do want to look at.
Boarding House was featured in GUP#27, the Anniversary issue.