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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » January 7, 2009
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Press Photography vs. Art
January 7, 2009   
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This retrospective exhibition of photographs by Roger Ballen is an opportunity to see the work of an artist who moves freely and successfully between press photography and pure art.

Ballen is the winner of some of the world's most important photo awards. Born in New York City in 1950, he is the son of a picture editor at Magnum, a major global photographic agency. He started his career taking documentary photographs of human rights activists and protesters against the war in Vietnam. In the mid-1970s, he started traveling the world. He was documenting the life of South African villages when his main interest shifted to the villagers themselves and his photos became increasingly staged, losing their purely documentary character.

Pictures shown at the exhibition combine documentary photography with painting, theater and sculpture. Viewers respond to the photographs in much the same way they do when watching abstract paintings that thrive on collective fears and obsessions. The staged scenes in the pictures feature strange and ugly people who play with plush toys and stuffed animals. They are surrounded by primitive masks and ominous signs drawn on the walls of empty rooms that are reminiscent of prison cells.

BWA Gallery of Contemporary Art, Katowice, 6 W. Korfantego Ave., open through Jan. 31
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