Roger Ballen: Die Antwoord’s freeky friend

Editor’s Note: This story originally published in 2013.

CNN  — 

When South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord released the music video for their single “I Fink U Freeky,” the world watched.

The visually stunning black-and-white video went viral because the man behind the camera had been perfecting his aesthetic for the past 10 years.

Photographer Roger Ballen

Roger Ballen has made a gradual shift over his 50-year career from documentary photography to the art world.

“If you’ve taken pictures of one thing long enough … you move on, the environment moves on and your work moves on,” Ballen told CNN from his home in Johannesburg.

Ballen said he understands photography the same way a writer understands journaling, calling himself a “visual organizer.”

“The best way to learn about photography is to take pictures,” he said. “And so my pictures are just a result of years and years of one picture influencing another picture.”

Drawing inspiration from two of his previous books, “Shadow Chamber” and “Boarding House,” he recreated his own installations and scenes for Die Antwoord’s music video.

Ballen found that video requires a different approach than still photography.

“In a photograph, the whole thing has got to have a presence that you capture faster than you blink,” he said. Whereas video “doesn’t have to have the same perfection as a still photograph.”

His upcoming book “Die Antwoord,” due out September 16, integrates his photography with the music video and the aesthetic of the artwork used in the video.

“The song itself fit into what I did,” Ballen said. “If it was another song with the same installation, it might not have worked at all.”

Photographer Roger Ballen has been based in South Africa since the 1970s. His book “Die Antwoord” is now available. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.