Roger Ballen
Gabriele Tinti



Limited bilingual (Italian and English) Edition, Signed by the Artist and the Author


220 × 270 mm




182 pages 




51 poems by Gabriele Tinti


1 JULY 2024


$450 → BUY

Hungry Ghosts sees the prize-winning poet Gabriele Tinti collaborate with the acclaimed photographer Roger Ballen on a unique artistic engagement with the furthest edges of life and consciousness. Drawing inspiration from the Petavatthu verses of the Buddhist tradition, Hungry Ghosts is a thrilling evocation of the disturbing visions and the yearnings for a world beyond that have fed both ancient and modern understandings of the afterlife.

Taking as their starting points the simplest of media—respectively the brief epigraphic verse and the photographic negative—Tinti and Ballen have produced something truly extraordinary: a masterfully crafted series of poems in dialogue with a stunning array of phantasmagoric images. Tinti’s verse has become renowned for its combination of rigorous sparseness on the level of diction with imagery of an extraordinary power and resonance. These qualities are once again much in evidence in Hungry Ghosts, but Tinti’s response to Ballen’s brilliant and disquieting works has also led him to explore an entirely new terrain: the uncanny borderlands between life and death.

HUNGRY GHOSTS IS A BOOK in which words and pictures combine to make the absent pre­sent—that which is lost but may nevertheless return, the ghosts of our mind, supernatural powers. It is a phantasmagoria that gives voice to the repressed part of our existence: to nightmares and bad thoughts, to that which we desperately wish to banish or regain, even if only in effigies or words.

The title and structure are derived from the
Petavatthu (“Ghost Stories”—“Hungry Ghost”, to be precise. In Pāli: peta; 隞苤—literally: “hungry spirit”), a Theravada Buddhist scripture of fifty-one poems evoking the dramatic stories of the spirits, the restless dead, their sufferings that result from bad actions performed in previous lives and, also, the possibility of redemption.

The book retains both the form and the content of the Petavattu, combining them with the resonance of epigraphs from the ancient world. So there are fifty-one poems composed by Gabriele Tinti in the form of epigrams that, in relation to Roger Ballen’s pictures, compel us to reckon with the mystery of our thirst for transcendence—with the desire for, and fear of, death and the beyond.

Hungry Ghosts shows what it means to consort with ghosts—to speak with and compare ourselves to our forebears in the conviction that art and poetry are none other than that same quest and attempt.”

Gabriele Tinti is an Italian poet and writer. He has worked with the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the British Museum (among many other institutions), and his poems have been performed by actors including Abel Ferrara, Willem Dafoe and Kevin Spacey. His work is focused on the theme of death and suffering and is mostly composed in the form of ekphrastic and epigrammatic poetry. In 2018 his ekphrastic poetry project Ruins was awarded the Premio Montale with a ceremony at the Museo Nazionale Romano in Palazzo Altemps.

Roger Ballen is one of the most important photographers of his generation. He has published over twenty-five books, and his photographs are collected by some of the most prominent museums in the world. His oeuvre, which spans five decades, began with the documentary photography field but evolved into the creation of distinctive fictionalized realms that also integrate the mediums of film, installation, theatre, sculpture, painting, and drawing. commonly referred to as Ballenesque. Ballen has also been the creator of several acclaimed and exhibited short films that dovetail with his photographic series. Ballen was one of the artists that represented South African at the Venice Biennale Arte 2022.