Roger Ballen Photographer

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Roger Ballen’s 1999 photograph “Puppy Between Feet”, which is currently on display at the Eastman House, is an uncommon black and white gelatin silver print from an old Rollei TRL medium format film camera. The print it’s self, which is only 80mm by 80mm, is quite smooth as far as the tones and exposure go. But nevertheless the urban style, slash, still-life idea of Mr. Ballen is so abstract and subjective and so different from his past journalistic style, that it has the tendency to take a person back if not ready. As one looks at the print it’s apparent, and almost overpowering, that what they are looking at is dirty, coarse, unkempt feet. At a closer inspection of the feet one can see that the toenails are so encrusted with god knows what, that it looks almost painful. It even seems if one would look at the left foot they would see there is a toe missing. But enough about feet, let’s move on to the very adolescent puppy in the middle of the unseen person’s feet. Because the dog is so young, it’s eyes are not yet open which could make one speculate that the puppy might be deceased. Holding the puppy into position between the feet is a hand, most likely belonging to the obscured man under the blanket. When taking a closer look at the hand one would probably observe that unlike the nails of the toes, the fingernails of this person seems more clean and taken care of, strange. This small observation could make a viewer wonder if there is a second person in the picture under the blanket, or whatever, holding the little creature. The speculation of the person or person’s identity then brings the eye to the covers that were used to conceal the body. The covers, or what look to be like covers, are obviously on top of the man, and have a very abrasive look and texture to them. While the pillow, or again something that looks like a pillow, I don’t know for sure, seems to have much less texture. But both are very dingy and have a way of cutting the frame...
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