While Ralph Ziman is new to the gallery world, the artist is no stranger to creative production. His credits as a director are extensive — with videos for artists from Michael Jackson to Ozzy Osborne — and he is the writer, director and producer of Hearts and Minds, the first South African independent feature film completed after apartheid. While working on a forthcoming feature film, his photo series, Ghosts, emerged as a side project that turned into a six-month collaboration with several artisans working on the streets of Johannesburg. Ziman, a South African native, commissioned them to create beaded sculptures of AK-47s, crafted in the traditional Shona style, and did a photo shoot of the creators with their work.
The resulting photographs look otherworldly with their fluorescent glow, illuminated as if by black light. But despite the surreal aesthetic of the series, a creeping uneasiness seeps in as the AK-47 sculptures bear weighty connotations. Ziman’s intention is political: Ghosts prods the viewers to learn more about the arms trafficking industry from powerful, foreign nations to Africa and the violence and injustice it has bred. The Ghosts photo series and Ziman’s collaborative sculptures will debut as a solo show of the same title at C.A.V.E. Gallery in Venice, CA on February 8. The proceeds from the show are going to Human Rights Watch. The photos have also been making appearances as street art pieces in Ziman’s adopted home of Los Angeles. Take a look at some of his work below.