Paul Ballen

Paul grew up in Johannesburg but spent most summers pounding the pavements of New York City because his dad, renowned international photographer Roger Ballen, is a New Yorker by birth and upbringing. “I remember in my early childhood eating ice cream with my American family. Ice cream is such a part of American day to day life,” he says. An ice cream machine for a birthday present began Paul’s journey into his own mastery of ice cream. Paul started making one litre a day. Milk chocolate with swirls of Nutella and chunks of Oreo was an early experiment. Soon he needed a second machine. He started giving tubs of the stuff away to family and friends. Flavors were experimental and often exotic and indulgent. The tubs were decorated with handmade labels by his mom, acclaimed local artist Lynda Ballen, and tied with bows. He created a Facebook group and an order form, an Instagram account, a blog, and hosted promo days with waffles and ice cream. “People started associating me with ice cream.” From two Krups machines, Paul moved onto a Gelatissimo that had a built-in compressor. From one litre a day, he could now churn one litre an hour: “I used to make a huge mess in my parents’ kitchen late at night making the custard. There was egg white and sugar everywhere.” More orders came in and the purchase of another Gelatissimo followed. After the third Gelatissimo and the recruitment of an assistant, Paul started approaching small stores such as Wolves and Love Food to stock his product. His cousin in London sent a design for a...

Roger Ballen

Ballen is one of the most important photographers of his generation. He was born in New York in 1950 but for over 30 years he has lived and worked in South Africa. His work as a geologist took him out into the countryside and led him to take up his camera and explore the hidden world of small South African towns. At first he explored the empty streets in the glare of the midday sun but, once he had made the step of knocking on people’s doors, he discovered a world inside these houses which was to have a profound effect on his work. These interiors with their distinctive collections of objects and the occupants within these closed worlds took his unique vision on a path from social critique to the creation of metaphors for the inner mind. After 1994 he no longer looked to the countryside for his subject matter finding it closer to home in Johannesburg. Over the past thirty years his distinctive style of photography has evolved using a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. In the earlier works in the exhibition his connection to the tradition of documentary photography is clear but through the 1990s he developed a style he describes as ‘documentary fiction’. After 2000 the people he first discovered and documented living on the margins of South African society increasingly became a cast of actors working with Ballen in the series’ Outland and Shadow Chamber collaborating to create disturbing psychodramas. The line between fantasy and reality in his series’ Boarding House and Asylum of the Birds (published in the...