PHAIDON

Roger Ballen directs Die Antwoord video

Photographer's unsettling images propel South African hip-hop act's latest YouTube hit

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Obviously we're big fans of photographer Roger Ballen’s dark and disturbing black and white photographs here at Phaidon. So we were pleased to get a call from him this morning telling us about this music video he's just directed for Cape Town hip hop trio, Die Antwoord. The band's music is characterised by its Zef references (Zef being South African slang for modern and trashy, with lots of knowingly discarded cultural references).

Ballen of course is famous for his psychologically charged and unsettling images from South Africa of individuals marginalised from society often depicted in the setting of strange, cell-like rooms. So how did the coupling come about?

“I’ve known these guys for about 7 or 8 years," said Ballen. "They asked me ages ago if I’d be interested in making some sort of music video with them which I was! I took some photographs for their new album about three years ago which a friend said were appearing on the background of their tracks on YouTube and the ratings were going crazy! It went from nothing to about 8 million hits in a really short space of time, so we decided to go for the video.”

After years of planning the video, the whole storyboarding and shooting process was over in the blink of an eye Ballan says – “We’ve been wanting to do this for so many years, then we organised the whole thing in 10 days and it took 5 days of shooting. We found people in the neighbourhood to take part.”

“We had really clear concepts of what we wanted to do in our heads,” Ballen told us. “We started with my photographs for ideas and then mimicked them in the sets. Most of the sets started with almost like a ‘Roger Ballen still life’ and then we might have added in a mouth or foot or hand and then we went into them cinematically.”

“I’ve had a terrific response, people have found it really interesting the way we were able to integrate their music into the visual aesthetic I have,” said Ballen. He also revealed he's currently working on an even more elaborate video for the band's next release. 


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