Roger the Rat

Roger Ballen

Roger the Rat is a photographic project documenting a semi-fictional masked character who impersonates a rat and lives out his life in an enigmatic, Ballenesque space in Johannesburg. This quasi-person is isolated from the mainstream of society and surrounds himself with rats and mannequins that he collects from various locations. Friendless and deranged, he creates a fantasy world with many of these lifeless figures, communicating with them as if they were alive. In numerous photographs we view the creations of Roger the Rat, dressed at times in complete likeness to himself and at others accompanied by objects, animals, and drawings that he transforms to create a theater that reflects his unique aesthetic.

This series could be considered surreal, absurd, humorous, or disturbing, since it reveals many repressed aspects of the human condition. The persona of Roger the Rat is fundamentally archetypal or even mythological, a half-human, half-animal character with the ability to profoundly penetrate and remain lodged in the mind of those who view these photographs.