Review on Workshop with Roger Ballen

If ever you considered whether you should  enrol yourself in a two-day mind-bend with Roger Ballen, a few words from this novice might help. 

Firstly, you need to step into this, seeing your camera like a sniper rifle. My first camera was a digital grab-all-I-can machine gun. For the record, we all shot digital during the workshop. My point is, if you want to go for the jugular, you need to wait for it to be exposed. 

Secondly, be prepared to spend time with your subject. It’s an installation, so it’s not going anywhere soon. It’s in this space, that you will have ample time to develop a thorough conversation with your subject. To reduce the narrative. Ballen has mastered this. His photographs are to the point and void of excess trinkets. It has a lot to do with how shapes and objects relate to each other. Most probably, you will be confronted with questions like: “Why does this object need to be part of the image?”. A new revelation to me was the proper identification of the true subject. 

As still as an installation can be, there will be movement. There will be a moment, where something in the image snaps.  You don’t need to understand it. Your joy will come from recognising that moment, and pulling the trigger. 

“Aah, but I don’t want to copy Roger Ballen, I want to be original.”, you might think. Let me set your conscience free. Originality is overrated. As creatives, we are allowed to steal from everywhere.  Paintings, sculptures, nature, architecture, books, movies. The list is endless. Steal only that which resonates with your soul. Then, you will be authentic. Authenticity is infallible. 

Lastly, another thought that might cross your mind is the quality of the workshop. Again, some freedom. Alternative Print Workshop has been professional, very well organised and well prepared in every workshop I’ve done with them. They have tons of knowledge and are eager to pass it on ( along with  hot cups of coffee and rusks). 

Although tired, I felt thrilled that I took a huge leap and dug deeper into my passion for photography.

Stella Olivier

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