Ivan founded Ballack Art House with a vision of creating lifestyle images for any space. Yet his photography itself succeeds in transcending both time and place, evoking a faded nostalgia that takes its cue from 70s California just as much as his native South Africa of the present. Desaturated landscapes, vintage vehicles, and pop-art photography blend together to form a visual narrative of longing. We sat down with Ivan to chat location scouting, old-school aesthetics, and skateboarding.
How did you get into photography and what was the first photo you ever took?
My mum had an old-school film camera when I was growing up. I was drawn to the sheer magnetism of the object and learnt how to shoot and focus by playing with the various knobs. The first photo I shot was of a friend skateboarding back in 1987 on a disposable film camera. We had made a makeshift half-pipe from a huge billboard and skated on it for weeks.
Tell us about the JUNIQE photo you most enjoyed taking and the story behind it.
My favourite would have to be “Pine Nutty”. This image stirs great memories as it was taken at a time when I really got into shooting and started with a simple mobile phone. It was one of the images that kicked our journey off with JUNIQE. That was a fun time.
What's in your toolkit of techniques? How do you achieve various effects and styles in your work?
I try to use a camera as an artistic tool, focussing on the layout and the creative aspect behind a shot. Then, I play with the image in Photoshop to create the desired effect. I always feel that if you haven’t sweat a little for the photo, then most likely you haven’t created a great shot. A golden rule I try to follow is to capture one good shot every day—then I’m winning.
You have a knack for finding simple, yet beautiful patterns in nature and architecture. How do you go about finding and photographing these patterns?
That would be like giving away my secret formula, wouldn’t it? I like to explore places I haven’t been, even if they’re still in my own neighbourhood. The key is just to explore, play, and have fun. And try to create a good balance in the frame.
A retro aesthetic sweeps through your work. What draws you to the past?
This attraction relates to the simplicity of creativity back then. I’m old school at heart.
From faded Coca-Cola signs to deserted McDonald’s stores, you seem fascinated by the iconography of mass advertising. Tell us more about this.
My early interest in mass media stems from my studies in advertising. I followed a path of art direction and design within brand communications. Certain brands’ designs have always had an influence on me.
Transport is a recurring theme in your work. What draws you to travel? Are you an artist always on the move?
I do get around but not nearly enough. My love of transport really comes from my love of cars though. Cars showed me what design was growing up. I love discovering old models and sharing their beauty.
You refer to your photography as ‘lifestyle images’. How did you arrive at the term?
‘Lifestyle images’ relate to work that translates well into the home—from wall art to an array of prints on furniture and home accessories. The term is also loaded with a sense of ‘taste’ or ‘class’. It connotes a feeling of being well-travelled with a touch of play in the mix.
If you could travel through space and time, which decade and place would you choose and why?
I would turn the clock back to the 80s and jump into the California skate art and music scene. Too many of my heroes come from this era to only mention one.
Text: Nicholas Potter