Design Series: The Beauty of Photographs

Personally, I feel that photography is a rather underrated art form.  As I learn my way around Instagram effects and poses, and attempts to stage my lunch in such a way that it will appear delicious and interesting to viewers, (as Heather Moore of Skinny Laminx once memorably tweeted, Instagramming your meals is like the modern version of saying grace) I realise more and more that taking a beautiful photo is more difficult than it looks.  And that’s just taking snaps of pretty (as well as pretty mundane) things.  Let alone trying to take photo’s that have a visual impact and deep and meaningful message behind them.  So big up to all the photographers out there – I salute you.
Last night I dragged my mother out to the exhibition opening for Roger Ballen’s latest offering, Playpen, at my all time favourite gallery, KZNSA in Bulwer Road.  (Its the most beautiful building, and they have great kitchen offerings.  Try their fish cakes.  As for taking my mother as my date, I’ve just moved to Durban, so I’m still making friends.  I’m a nice person though – any takers?)
 According to the official blurb about the exhibition, this is what you can expect:
“The Playpen exhibition is a selection of photographs by Roger Ballen from his series’ Boyhood, Platteland, Outland, Shadow Chamber, Boarding House and new works from Asylum. Ballen consciously and carefully constructs his compositions and creates spaces that give the sensation that you are inside the image, cut off from the outside world but also from other spaces around you”
It’s quite dark, but in amongst the more haunting images are little rays of sunshine; some quirky, uplifting moments that  made me smile.
Playpen could be idealized as one of childhood’s utopias. The Playpen exhibition represents the opposite of this utopian notion of a child’s play space. The depiction of fundamentally disturbing places and objects related to children (as selected for this exhibition) is based on the theoretical concept of heterotopia.  Heterotopia is a non-hegemonic “other” space of neither here, nor there, a real place that exists outside of known space. Playpen as heterotopia represents an abject parallel space associated with these children from the margins of society. Their surroundings seem impoverished and neglected; however the children do not seem to be influenced by their environment as we are.”
The common consensus is that the imagery “lingers,” going away with you when you leave to be mulled over.  The effects of the exhibition certainly stay with you for a while.
Go have a look – the exhibition runs until the third of March.  While you’re at it, take your iPhone and blend in the hipster masses with Instagram shots of the exhibition to look cool.  That’s what I did.  I don’t know if I succeeded, but I certainly felt cool.  You’ll see this photography business is tougher than it looks!
- Lee

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