Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

“I’m not trying to do anything except make pictures that challenge Roger Ballen” – a conversation with Roger Ballen

By Mila de Villiers

Roger Ballen. ©Alternative Print Workshop.

If you’re familiar with Die Antwoord, images of an anomalous Johannesburg, or raw photos of South Africa’s rural Afrikaans communities, you’ve probably come across Roger Ballen.

Ballen, whose photographic career spans over forty years, recently released Ballenesque, a monograph consisting of his oeuvre and previously unpublished images. ‘Ballenesque’ has become synonymous with his style which, over the past twenty years, has moved from being partly documentary to one that incorporates elements of drawing, painting, installation, and video.

As the photographic artist himself explains in his deep, measured voice: “This integration of medias has allowed me to create an aesthetic that is referred to as Ballenesque.”

I’m seated across Ballen in his large, well-lit office in Parktown, Johannesburg. The walls are adorned with framed images of his work. Stuffed animals, including a baboon, a serval and an aardvark, greet you once you enter the office space. He promises to acquaint me with the office rat (Stoffel).

As Ballen’s mother was involved with the Magnum Agency in New York, Ballen – who holds a PhD in geology – was introduced to photography at a young age, publishing his first book, Boyhood, at 28.

Boyhood consists of black and white images of boys, comprised mostly of a trip made from Cape Town to Cairo between 1973 and 1978.

Cover-Up, Indonesia, 1976.
Ballen describes Boyhood as “a trip into my own childhood. So all my pictures from those days had a psychological edge to them, an existential edge.”

Existentialism features heavily in Ballen’s work and he is renowned for having stated that “nothing” is the most profound word in the English language.

“Well, where do you come from, and where are you going?” Ballen reasons. “That’s the quandary everybody faces, that nothing can happen in a second from now. Then what?”

And does he think that’s a driving force for people?

Ja,” the native New Yorker responds. ”That’s the death instinct. It’s the thing that drives everything on the planet.

“That’s the purpose of what I’m doing. It’s the most fundamental force in anything alive, it’s dealing with the survival instinct … the need to stay alive in a hostile environment, especially in nature.”
Froggy Boy, USA, 1977.

“Hostile environments” and “nature” reminds me of Dorps, Ballen’s photographic series of dorpies shot in and around rural South Africa – not quite as Ballenesque as his more recent work, yet still stark, gritty, and – in classic Ballen style – black and white. Did Ballen’s profession as geologist propel him to study rural South Africa?

Ballen came back to South Africa in 1982, after having completed his PhD in geology, and at that time “there wasn’t a place on the planet that was more advanced in mining, metallurgy, mineral exploration.

“It was an interesting country and the people here at the time were very hospitable to me and it felt like I could make a difference here, I guess.”

Old Man, Ottoshoop, 1983.

Ballen made a gradual move to shooting poor, marginalised Afrikaans communities in South Africa, as portrayed in Platteland.

Platteland was photographed between 1986 and 1994 – pivotal dates in our country’s history, with ’86 defined by the declaration of a state of emergency, and ’94 the advent of democracy.

How did an American geologist-cum-photographer “convince” armblankes to be subjects of his work during these turbulent years?

The conversation is interrupted by lively cooing from the speckled dove in a cage in the corner of his office, later introduced to me as Icarus.


“He likes you,” Ballen says, eyes drifting towards the dove, a look of affection crossing his face. “He’s listening, he’s saying ‘watch yourself there!’” [Cue hearty laughter.]

Photographing strangers can “happen quite spontaneously. You might find somebody in a shop and you talk to them and they invite you over for tea,” Ballen furthers.

Sgt F de Bruin, Dep of Prison Employees, OFS, 1992.

“I always have had a good relationship with the people that I have photographed over the years. I can hardly remember having a negative or hostile experience in anyway.

“Most importantly, I have always believed that the subject should benefit in some way from the experience whether it be my buying them food, clothing, or medicine, paying them for their work, or just listening and empathizing. Without any doubt, I feel that the people that I have worked with over the years have been much more hospitable towards me that many of the well-off people that I have encountered.

“I didn’t necessarily go there with somebody to make fun of people and cause issues; I’m still friendly with a lot of these people 30 years later. They message me, or call me. I can feel it in my pocket,” he says patting his trouser pocket in which his phone had just vibrated.

Photography isn’t just a matter of “finding somebody who you think has an interesting face and taking their picture,” he continues. “It’s very, very difficult and in fact it takes a great photograph that has some lasting power. For something to rise above the ‘normal’, to have some sort of effect on people’s subconscious mind, is very difficult.”

Man shaving on veranda, Western TVL, 1986.

The struggle to capture photos with lasting power is perpetuated by the billions of images we’re confronted with on a daily basis and an inability to “separate the more artistic level of photography from the more mundane,” Ballen states.

This begs the question whether social media platforms are nullifying or destroying photography.

“I use these things myself. I Instagram. It’s a means of exchanging information. The problem is the evaluation of these images.”

PSA, Kim K fans: you better stop reading here…

“The Kardashian woman takes a picture of her shoe on the floor and it gets two million hits. Or her cigarette that she just smoked and it gets five million hits. But the picture’s horrible. My dog could almost take the picture. But it had five million hits!” he incredulously declares.

“Monetary value, or the “like”-value, effects how you see the picture. It’s very confusing.”

Ballen is uncertain about whether this problem can be solved or addressed productively.

“You know I’m a geologist – see the rocks there?” he asks, pointing towards a collection of rocks aligned on the window sill, “that goes to a lab and the lab will tell you exactly if you want to know how much copper is in a block. Look at this picture,” he proceeds, indicating to one of his framed images, “is it good or bad? Do you like it? That one doesn’t like it. So you have this enormous subjectivity involved in this media. This is why it’s a confusing subject.”

Since 1997, the year in which Ballen’s Outland project was produced, his work has progressed into a style described as “documentary fiction”.

Ballen defines “documentary” as en external experience and regards “fiction” as something your imagination creates. The images in The Outland, Boarding House and Shadow Chamber feature Johannesburg’s “fringe” characters, often wearing masks, captured in confined spaces, drawings and marks etched on the walls. A sense of the abnormal and outlandish is created.

Since we, as humans, occupy space both physically and mentally, I’m curious to know whether Ballen intentionally shoots these peripheral people in confined spaces as means to capture the place where the mental “meets” the physical.


One Arm Goose, 2004. (L)
Cut Loose, 2005. (R)
“The first thing you have to realise is that whatever I’m saying, I’m saying visually,” the artist answers. “I’ve always stated that if I can talk about the picture in precising words, it’s probably a bad picture. That’s the first step. That’s what differentiates me from most South African photographers – I’m not a political photographer; I’m psychological.

“Dealing with aesthetics and, more importantly, trying to reach the subconscious mind and transform the subconscious mind of myself and expand the subconscious of myself and hopefully others… The issue is I’m not trying to do anything except make pictures that challenge Roger Ballen.”

His work certainly is psychological, but it isn’t his intention to elicit a certain response from audiences, questioning the meaning of “the response”.

“What is a response if somebody finds them disturbing and humorous at the same time? What is the response? What would you call that?

“They’re mindscapes,” he says of his photos.

“They’re real scapes and they’re mindscapes and the reason they have an effect on you is they have an ability to enter your mind and your mind doesn’t … your mind is unclear how to react to them.

“The pictures, to have to have an effect, have to break through your repression, unleash your repression, and reach some so-called “core place”. The issue is that the pictures have to have an ability to get at somebody and challenge people’s status; that’s my goal.”

Ballen explains that his photos present a part of your being which you’re unaccustomed to.

“‘Disturbing’ is not really the right word – they’re unleashing. They’re presenting a segment of yourself, which you’re not used to you. It’s like if you’re looking in a mirror, especially when you’re tired or you’re sick – you get a little bit of a shock, you know? And you say “Shit, is that me? I can’t believe it”.”

In the accompanying video for Outland, shot by local filmmaker Ben Jay Crossman, one of the “fringe” characters to feature in the work, a man named  Stanley who catches and releases rats on a daily basis, tells Ballen how “Ben can’t believe his eyes with all these people around here.” Is this something people often comment on? Has he ever been asked if he attempts to “normalise” the “abnormal”?

Head Below Wires, 1999.

“I’m not very clear about normality at all. I’m not convinced about normality. I’m not convinced about abnormality, either. These terms you used – in a way to protect people’s subconscious minds, they classify abnormality and normality. And if somebody is abnormal they don’t have to deal with it in certain ways. Obviously I’m not talking about the extremes, there are a lot of people who have serious biological, physiological problems…”

Five Hands, 2006.

Ballen dislikes the claims that he’s appropriating or exploiting the people he photographs as, for the last 15 years, he’s “finally had a face in the picture. So when we talk about Roger Ballen’s work, like in the last 10 years almost, it’s always been about animals. What does he think? [This question is asked whilst indicating towards Icarus.] He likes it? He’s fed up with these comments. He’s thinking “why are you always talking about people?” We’re trying to use our own words to define his reality and you don’t understand his reality, you never will.”

Although Ballen does not like to use the word “inspiration”, he discloses that “if somebody pointed a gun to my head, I would probably say [Samuel] Beckett.” This in response to his work having been compared to Diane Arbus’s, something Ballen disputes; especially the type of work he did in Platteland.

“There was an aspect of people living in these places who were marginalised, living on the edge, who weren’t coping, who were strange … there was some correspondence between what Diane Arbus was doing and what I was doing. But at the beginning of Outland, about ’97, there was a real divergence between what she was doing and what I did. Outland was focused on human absurdity; Diane Arbus wasn’t interested in that. Roger Ballen Theatre started to come about; Diane Arbus wasn’t interested in that.”

Clockwise from top left: Altercation, 2012. Devour, 2013. Tommy, Samson and a Mask, 2000.

Ballen’s love of – and appreciation for – animals is evident in his work, and he has two books dedicated to animals, including Asylum of the Birds. Absentmindedly waving in the direction of the dove as I ask what it is about birds that intrigues him, he tells me “Icarus. His name’s Icarus.

“My first-grade teacher was obsessed by Greek mythology. In fact, the first book that I bought without my parents intervention was the Iliad and the Odyssey. My favorite character in Greek mythology was Zeus as he was the ultimate God. I remember climbing Mount Olympus and feeling his presence.

“Greek myths are really revealing,” Ballen continues. “They’re like dreams. There was something nice about being able to … reassuring to call a beautiful bird after something special about doing it. The name has a very strong, warm, positive feeling in my mind. To use the word is actually soothing in a way. Instead of calling him some pseudo-yuppie name.”

Smiling, he rhetorically states “He’s a nice bird, hey?”

Ballen owns “a lot” of birds, and has “some place where I keep about 300 owls. But not as pets. I like all animals.”

Rats, especially, feature prominently in his photos. Why does he finds this singular rodent so remarkable?

“I believe the rat is the most intelligent species on the planet based on their brain size. I own many as pets and am amazed at their ability to learn,” he responds.

“The rat lives everywhere on the planet, can eat almost anything, and is able to survive in the most difficult of environmental circumstances. In western cultures rats are looked down upon, but ultimately, they are a product of nature and no better or no worse than any other species.”

Besides rats, Ballen’s animal photography includes images of pigeons, snakes, pigs, and goats. Ballen attributes his photographing of these “ordinary” animals to the setting of his photos.

“All the pictures I take are on the inside … inside buildings. So you wouldn’t necessarily find a tiger or a rhinoceros inside some room in Johannesburg. That really would be a little bit strange. A lion inside a room … somebody asleep on top of a lion,” he replies, chortling.

His interest in taking pictures of animals and in animal psychologies started as a teen, he adds.

“I’ve always been interested in the animal side of the human behaviour and the primitive side of the mind and the relationship ultimately between humans and animals and how this relationship is distorted by contemporary life.”

Ballen critiques Disney, citing that one of the reoccurring motifs – “all the animals love the people, and the people love the animals, and they get along” – creates the wrong idea of the historic relationship between animals and humans.

Puppy Between Feet, 1999.

“There’s a fundamental fear of nature; this is part of the genes of the species. There’s fundamental dislike of nature. We need to control nature because of this genetic evolution of the species. So in fact there’s no real harmonious relationship between humans and nature.”

In the majority of his photos featuring animals, Ballen will have the person in the photo holding or cuddling the animal. To what extent does he “direct” a photo?

“Every picture is different, first of all. There’s always this relationship in my pictures between what could have been there, what is spontaneous, and what I could have put there. So you always have that so-called tension in a lot of the pictures. 

“I always say the pictures are interactive, and that’s all you can say. And ultimately they’re pictures that Roger Ballen created; images that nobody else could create. So Roger Ballen is a Roger Ballen world, so yes, they’re all – they exist as pictures as a result of Roger Ballen. That’s it. That’s what they are. They don’t exist spontaneously. They don’t exist spontaneously because they’re ways of organising the world through a camera and through your mind.”

One can’t speak to Ballen without enquiring about his collaboration with Die Antwoord, considering he directed the music video for the zef-rap-rave duo’s 2012 hit, I Fink U Freeky.

Shack scene, Johannesburg, 2012.

Ballen’s aesthetic is palpable in the video. Think Ninja in a loincloth. Yo-Landi wearing black contact lenses. The walls covered with unsettling drawings and marks. And rats. Many, many rats.

Unfortunately Ballen can’t remember whether any of the rats were his own.

“That’s a really good question,” he replies, brow furrowed. “I think they were … I think they were my rats. But Yo-Landi had some rats at the time. I introduced her to rats.”

Zef culture, as popularised by Die Antwoord, and Ballen’s style wouldn’t necessarily be described as congruent; it was with their introduction to Ballen’s Outland that “they stopped doing whatever they were doing and reinvented themselves as Die Antwoord. It had a major effect on them,” Ballen explains.

“My aesthetic hit their subconscious mind in some way that they saw something in the work that inspired them to move in another direction. Yo-Landi contacted me, they wanted to show me their videos, they wanted to do a project with me.”

This correspondence went on for a number of years and when I Fink U Freeky was produced it went “totally viral. Totally viral.” (The video currently has over 107 million views. Sjoe.)

It’s surprising that Ballen’s art features in a music video, as his response to an interviewer enquiring what music one should listen to while perusing his work, was “no music”. Did he ever imagine that he would collaborate with musicians?

“I didn’t have many expectations, this happened all spontaneously. If music is used as a vehicle with somebody with more musical skills than myself to create a … Extending the reality of my imagery and my aesthetic, well that’s great. I’m happy … The most important thing I saw was the power of the video. Since then … I don’t know if you saw Asylum of the Birds?”

I answer in the affirmative.

“And The Outland video, and The Ballenesque video. I don’t think I’d ever have done that if it wasn’t for I Fink U Freeky. I didn’t realise how my imagery and what I’m doing could be transformed to moving image. This was a really important event in my career.”

In light of Ballen’s recent The Theatre of Apparitions video, one wonders whether he’s considering doing similar audiovisual work in the future.

Face Off, 2010.

“Definitely. I have a new project now,” is the enthusiastic response.

“It’s like this animated, well, it’s like a cartoon-figure I’ve been working with in the photographs. The photographs are animated. So this cartoonish type of character that’s involved in situations most people would not do, or can’t do. So it’s symbolic of liberation and mischievousness.”

Is he by any chance extending himself into this character with “free reigns”? Would he describe it as a liberating process?

Jaja. I guess,” he thoughtfully replies, before candidly stating “I’m not that repressed.

“To me it’s more of a humorous activity. It’s a creative activity, the characters are liberating me in a way. It’s an enjoyable process.”

Compared to his past work, which is very much psychologically challenging, will he describe the experience of this project as more enjoyable?

“This animated series isn’t as complex as some of the others, but I enjoy them all. I wouldn’t do them if I didn’t enjoy them. Because I never really try to make pictures for other people, it’s always been my own personal goals. When it’s been satisfying … It’s gratifying that you know people ultimately must have responded to what I’ve done; it’s great as an artist – what more can an artist ask for, in a way. It’s pretty deafening if there’s no response.”

The Divided Self, 2016.

Five final questions

You’ve been living and working in the surrounds of Johannesburg since the 1970s. Could you describe Johannesburg, or what Johannesburg means to you?

Well, you know, I have a picture in the Apparitions book, it’s called Divided Self. Joburg, in a way, has that aspect to it. On one side it represents a social-political-cultural reality and on the other side is another social-political reality. And they don’t really harmonise really well. Back to what we were talking about, I would say Joburg is symbolic of the divide of itself.

 As an artist you combine fact and fiction; as a reader, do you prefer to read fact or fiction?

I’m very multi-dimensional in terms of my history of reading and I’m quite well educated. Everything – theatre to fiction to philosophy; the poetry, the geology, economics. It’s really difficult because I have such a range of things I’ve been interested in over the years so I can’t really say if it’s fact or fiction, it’s a whole range of things. Is theatre fiction or is it fact? Theatre, by its nature, is almost totally documentary; partly fictional. I like things with interaction between fact and fiction.

Can you give me an example?

Well, you take something like [Joseph] Conrad’s work. He spent time on boats, travelling all over the world … He transformed it into his own world. It’s hard to know what was really the place, and what was his memory.

Yo-Landi Visser once described you as “the weirdest person I’ve ever met”. I think that’s such a compliment…

People make these comments, like “weirdest person”, “that picture is disturbing”. I’m happy; it’s great. I guess the worst thing they could say is that the work is boring.

Icarus’s lively cooing interrupts the conversation once more.

What do you think? [This question is posed to Icarus.] It’s the most he’s ever talked. He’s really enjoying what’s going on here. He’s really liking what we’re doing here. He really never does this much talking. He’s a quiet bird. We had these doves, these laughing doves, and the rest of the staff here … it was driving them crazy, so I took them out of the office.

Have you ever been accused of being boring?

No, I hate to disappoint you.


Book details











Boarding House


Shadow Chamber


Asylum of the Birds


Roger Ballen: Die Antwoord


The Theatre of Apparitions


» read article

Not political, but ‘psychological’ – Roger Ballen launches his latest book and exhibition, The House Project

Roger Ballen

By Lungile Sojini

The House ProjectPhotographer Roger Ballen launched his new photobook and exhibition The House Project at Gallery MOMO in Parktown, Johannesburg recently.

The book draws on the psychological works of Carl Gustav Jung, the man credited with founding Analytical Psychology, a branch of psychology that not only looks at a person’s history but their current circumstances for “future growth and development” as well.

Jung’s interest in psychology was borne out of his discovery of psychosis, a disease of the mind in which one loses contact with reality. This led him to Burgholzli hospital at the University of Zurich in Switzerland where he worked with the famed Eugen Bleuler. Bleuler is credited for coining the term “schizophrenia”.

Describing the genesis of The House Project at the launch, Ballen said: “The book started when I was with the [Italian] author, Didi [Bozzini] in Stockholm. She had written the introduction to two previous books: Asylum of the Birds and Roger Ballen’s Theater of the Absurd. So we became very friendly during my show in Stockholm. Didi came to the opening and said, ‘I have a good idea. Why don’t you and I work on a project called The House?’”

Explaining the meaning behind the title, Ballen said: “The house could be broken up into different levels, different floors. Each floor representing a place of human condition, a place of human mind.”

The best way to think of The House Project is to think of it as a musician’s compilation of his or her best songs over the years; more like Ballen’s finest works compiled in a single place.

The book is a mixture of pictures from different series, rather than a mixture of pictures “taken in one time”, Ballen explained at the launch.

In Platteland, possibly his most famous and controversial book, his trademark black and white photographs raised the ire of white folks, as his targets or focus in those photographs were marginalised and mentally unstable white people, you could say.

22 years later, Ballen took time to reminisce about those heady days, commenting on the response and backlash from the people who found his work offensive.

“At the time, they were very defensive and offended. They were very concerned about their image cause they tried to present themselves as strong and totalitarian and in charge. And I showed a group of white people, they couldn’t deal with the chaos around,” said Ballen.

“It shocked the country and became a big talking point in the world because the media had always focused on this strong militaristic government and never really dealt with [these kinds of images].”

As much as Ballen denies any of his works being political; instead explaining them as “psychological”, it’s very hard, in a country like South Africa, to dismiss their political potency.

As to whether the New York-born but Johannesburg resident artist considers himself to be a New Yorker or a Joburger, Ballen was at odds to say which is which.

“I consider myself a Homo sapien on planet earth, under the clouds and stars, walking on the ground for a short time,” the photographer said.

OutlandAsylum of the BirdsShadow ChamberRoger Ballen: Die Antwoord


* * * * * * *

Lungile Sojini (@success_mail) tweeted live from the event:



Facebook gallery


Book Details

» read article

Winners of the 2016 Fourthwall Books Photobook Award for African photographers announced

Alert! The winners of the inaugural Fourthwall Books Photobook Award for African photographers have been announced.

The independent publisher will launch the annual award with two remarkable photographers, who were announced as joint winners today.

South African photographer George Mahashe, a PhD Fine Art candidate at University of Cape Town, originally from Limpopo, shares the award with Ivory Coast photographer Joana Choumali.

Both of these extraordinary artists will be working with Fourthwall Books to produce their books this year.

Congratulations to Mahashe and Choumali! We look forward to seeing the end result.

Press release:


Winners of the 2016 Fourthwall Books Photobook Award

Joana Choumali (Ivory Coast) and George Mahashe (South Africa) are the joint winners of the 2016 Fourthwall Books Photobook Award.

In selecting Choumali’s work Hââbré: The Last Generation, the jury remarked on the strength of these portraits of men and women with facial scarification. The subjects of Choumali’s photographs may, owing to political and social pressure, be the last people in Abidjan to wear these ritual facial markings.

In Mahashe’s Gae – Lebowa, the photographer’s record of excursions to his home of Bolobedu in Limpopo Province, provides insight into the notion of home in relation to an indigenous archive and colonial history. The jury was pleased to see a sustained and unusual engagement with the traditions, history and contemporary life of a rural community.

The Fourthwall Books Photobook Award, the first such award in Africa, is aimed at promoting the work of new and established photographers on the continent. It is awarded to photographers who have produced an excellent body of work suited to publication in book format.

Working closely with Fourthwall Books, Johannesburg, Choumali and Mahashe will produce their books in 2016.

Take a look at some previous publications by Fourthwall Books:

WaitingPlatinumGood RiddanceSlow FiresBreyten Breytenbach - A Monologue in Two Voices


Book details

» read article

Don’t miss the launch of Roger Ballen’s new book and exhibition The House Project at Gallery MOMO, Parktown

Roger Ballen Exhibition at Gallery MOMO

The House ProjectRoger Ballen is one of the most influential and important photographic artists of the 21st century. His work spans over 40 years and confronts viewers by challenging their perceptions as they look at the world through his eyes.

Ballen’s latest collection of work, a book and exhibition titled The House Project, will be launched at Gallery MOMO, Parktown North on Thursday, 21 January. Fans will be able to view the exhibition after that at both the Parktown and Cape Town galleries.

The House Project is a unique collaboration between photographer Ballen and writer Didi Bozzini. It looks back at Ballen’s career through the house as a metaphor for the mind:

The mind is like a house and the house is like the mind. One can move from the basement to the attic by climbing stairs in the house or by a corresponding state whereby one moves from the deeper untouched consciousness to a place that is linked with the ethereal.

– Roger Ballen

Don’t miss this!

Launch Details


OutlandAsylum of the BirdsShadow ChamberRoger Ballen: Die Antwoord


Book Details

» read article

Don’t miss the launch of Classic Passion by Johnathan Andrews and the #theoryofAPIS Photo Challenge at Skoobs

Invite to the launch of Classic Passion

Classic Passion: [(a+b)…Skoobs Theatre of Books would like to invite you to join them for the launch of Johnathan Andrews’s new book, Classic Passion: [(a+b)….

The book launch will coincide with the launch of the #theoryofAPIS Photo Challenge. Andrews will be speaking about his book, which explains the theory of Applied Photographic Inspiration (APIS) in full, and officially open the photo challenge.

Richard Cock will then take the microphone to speak about the upcoming Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (JIMF), leading to a special recital by two artists who will be performing there.

The event takes place on Thursday, 21 January and will start at 6 for 6:30 PM. Dress code is cocktail.

See you there!

Event Details

About the book

After thousands of hours behind the lens, and with hundreds of hours photographic teaching experience, renowned photographer Johnathan Andrews has developed the Theory of Applied Photographic Inspiration (APIS) – aka #theoryofAPIS.

“The theory is a formula for reasoning which could be applied to creative photographic imagery that requires planning and inspiration to be successfully executed” Andrews says. “The theory is a fairly simple hybrid mathematical calculation. It can be used in the application process of any creative discipline. Although APIS is in the beta phase, I believe that in sharing the principles of the theory at this early stage, photographers will perceive the preproduction creative photographic process in a different light, and the theory will contribute to an alternative understanding – and even stimulate photographic innovation.”

Prior to conceiving the theory, Andrews spent years carefully studying a selected number of elements applicable to the preproduction processes. These processes are vital to the creation of expressive photography, and the resulting images. The key is to capture images of a high standard, but equally, to be able to “capture the essence” of what is in the creative mind of the photographer or any creative professional. “The theory promises the practitioner, a fresh and deliberate creative stimulus driven by passion for photography and visual expression. The AIPS theory could even help create the energy to conceive and capture the very essence of the finest images the world will ever see” says Johnathan.

Classic Passion [(a+b) … deals with the first segment of the APIS calculation, and is the initial offering of the Theory of APIS series of books.
Discover how the theory comes to life, as Johnathan links it to music!

Classic Passion [(a+b) … features a special photographic tribute to the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (JIMF), to honour the devotion and dedication of Richard Cock and Florian Uhlig who have been hosting one of the finest annual music festivals in South Africa.

Book Details

» read article

Photos from the 2015 Open Book Festival

The 2015 Open Book Festival is in full swing with writers, readers and everyone in between gathered in Cape Town for the biggest boekjol Cape Town has ever seen!

Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, you can follow all the social media chatter associated with the event.

The Books LIVE team will be tweeting live from the festival: Jennifer Malec (@projectjennifer), Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp), Erin Devenish (@ErinDevenish811), Annetjie van Wynegaard (@Annetjievw) – so give us a follow for all the latest and greatest.

Liesl Jobson is out and about too and has taken some great photographs of all the action.

See if you can spot your favourite author, or even yourself:

Opening ceremony:

The 2015 Open Book Festival opened with a bang last night at The Book Lounge and Liesl Jobson was there to snap all the action. Can you spot your favourite author?

Posted by Books LIVE on Tuesday, 8 September 2015


Day 1: 9 September 2015

Photos from the first day of the 2015 Open Book Festival, happening in Cape Town from 9 – 13 September.Books LIVE…

Posted by Books LIVE on Thursday, 10 September 2015


Day 2: 10 September 2015

Photos from the second day of the 2015 Open Book Festival, happening in Cape Town from 9 – 13 SeptemberBooks LIVE…

Posted by Books LIVE on Friday, 11 September 2015

Day 3: 11 September 2015


Photos from the third day of the 2015 Open Book Festival, happening in Cape Town from 9 – 13 SeptemberBooks LIVE…

Posted by Books LIVE on Saturday, 12 September 2015

» read article

Fourthwall Books is Launching the Inaugural Photobook Award for African Photographers

Fourthwall Books, an independent publisher that produces art and photography books with a particular focus on Johannesburg, are launching a new award for African photographers.

For this award, experts in the field of photography seek out photography projects that are “original, risk-taking and important”. A panel of judges, to be convened in August, will announce the winner of this year’s award at the Joburg Art Fair on Saturday, 12 September.

Lisa King’s book Sometimes I make money one day of the week will be launched at the same time, as part of the inaugural event.

Read more about King’s photography on Fourthwall Books:

Four Photographs is a selection from Lisa King’s ongoing body of work exploring Zimbabwe’s Country Clubs, which she has been photographing and researching since 2011. This body of work forms the basis of her MA in History of Art at Wits University.

The portfolio is being sold to raise funds for the publication of the artist’s book Sometimes I Make Money One Day of the Week, a visual study of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, one of the last remaining manual or “open outcry” trading systems.

Take a look at some of Fourthwall Books’ previous publications:

WaitingPlatinumGood RiddanceSlow FiresBreyten Breytenbach - A Monologue in Two Voices

Press Release

Launch of the Fourthwall Books Photobook Award

Fourthwall Books, an independent publisher based in Johannesburg, South Africa, is launching a photography award for African photographers. The award is aimed at promoting the work, through book publication, of new and established photographers on the continent. It will be awarded to photographers who have an excellent body of work that is suited to book format.

The winner of the annual award will work closely with Fourthwall Books to produce a book to be published in an edition of 500. The award is being funded by a group of collectors and photography enthusiasts. Once the winner has been announced, they will be supported by one funder. The funder will, however, have no influence on the outcome of the award or on the editorial decisions of the photographer and the publisher.

This is not an open-submission award. Instead, experts in the field of photography from across the continent will nominate projects that they regard as being original, risk-taking and important. The photographers they choose will have to demonstrate ample evidence of having considered the book as a format for the representation of their body of work. They must show original thinking in regard to the book-in-print and their work must offer the potential for a coherent, original and dynamic publication.

Photographers nominated in one year who do not receive the award may be considered for the award the following year.

The work will be exhibited as a portfolio at a launch of the book at Fourthwall Books in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

A panel of independent judges will be announced in August and the winner will be announced at the Fourthwall stand of the Joburg Art Fair on Saturday 12 September.

The inaugural publication of the award, Sometimes I make money one day of the week by Lisa King will be launched on the same day.


Book details

» read article

Join Jason Larkin for the Launch of Waiting at Fourthwall Books as Part of First Thursdays Johannesburg

WaitingFourthwall Books (South Africa) and Photoworks (United Kingdom) would like to invite you to the launch of Waiting by Jason Larkin as part of the SA-UK Seasons 2014 & 2015.

While living in Johannesburg, British photographer Jason Larkin was struck by the ever-present reality of people waiting. He was drawn to those who sought shelter from the harsh summer sun by positioning themselves in the shade. Here the features of individuals are obscured, leaving only the subtlety of posture and the details of place. Omitting any reference to the purpose or outcome of each wait, Larkin simply records, beside each image, the duration of the wait.

As part of the project, the website will be launched in July 2015. Along with the photographs, it will host a collection of essays, poems and stories on the theme of waiting. In addition, an outdoor exhibition of Larkin’s images will be on show in Braamfontein for the month of July. A map showing the location of each image will be available at Fourthwall Books.

Larkin is a British photographer, internationally recognised for his long-term social documentary projects, environmental portraiture and landscape reportage. He lived in Johannesburg from 2011 to 2013.

This project has been supported by the SA-UK Seasons 2014 & 2015, a partnership between the Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa and the British Council. The launch forms part of the First Thursdays Johannesburg initiative.

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 2 July 2015
  • Time: 5:30 for 6 PM
  • Venue: Fourthwall Books,
    No. 5 Norvic House
    91 De Korte Street
    Braamfontein, 2001
    Johannesburg | Map
  • RSVP: Facebook event

Book Details

Image courtesy of Fourthwall Books

» read article

Same Mdluli Reviews Zanele Muholi: Faces and Phases 2006 – 2014 by Zanele Muholi and Gabeba Baderoon

Zanele Muholi: Faces and Phases 2006 - 2014Verdict: critical carrot

As a publication framed by contemporary art practice, it employs a range of strategies for the viewer to interact with its content. These highlight the publication as part of a selection process, one that begins to construct a particular narrative. It’s a narrative that, unlike the often confrontational nature of Muholi’s exhibitions, creates a sense of intimacy and personal space, both in its format and in the inclusion of testimonies, memoirs and poetry by her subjects.

Book Details

» read article

Photos from the 2014 Open Book Festival

The Books LIVE team are out and about during the 2014 Open Book Festival and have been snapping photos as they go. Have a look at what’s going on by browsing through the album on Facebook:


» read article