Photography | Viviane Sassen


I’m having something of an eh day. Dentistry was involved. Numb face, numb brain. On these kinds of days, I like to look at things that pick me up. And the work of Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen puts me right in that sweet spot of pleasurable viewing and unsettled viewing. When I look at her photos, I wake up.  As a child Viviane lived in a Kenyan village where her dad ran the polio clinic until they moved back to Amsterdam. Those years were transformative. ”To me, Africa is vivid colors and strong contrasts of light and dark,” she says. “I remember looking at women and children sitting under the trees sheltering from the sun and, even as a child, seeing these graphic shapes.” She has shot tons of fashion campaigns, many of which have been featured on this blog before, but also does documentary photo books of her travels in Africa.

Sassen studied fashion at the Royal Academy in Arnhem and briefly became a model, working for Viktor & Rolf before she transferred to do a photography degree at Utrecht in 1992. Sassen used photography, she says, to explore her sexuality as a teenager, making nude portraits of herself, her boyfriends and female friends. “I think that the experience I had of being shot by male photographers shaped what I was attempting to do, to show a different kind of sexuality than that created by the male gaze. One that is more fractured, disjointed. I have always been a very shy exhibitionist, ” she says, “Trying to hide but wanting to show.”

Lately Sassen has grown a little tired of fashion photography, she says. “I have always had this love/hate thing with it. I don’t really like the business side or the superficiality. You see more and more images of multiple models with multiple sunglasses and multiple bags. It’s all product, product, product and not much creativity.”

“Photography is in some way about  putting one foot in an unconscious world. I am trying to evoke that parallel universe I experienced as a child and that I could not find when I came back to Holland. All artists, to a degree, make self-portraits – that is what I am doing in my own instinctive way.”

IMG00195-20101002-1551 Franziska Mueller & Lula Osterdahl for AnOther (Fall 2012) by Viviane Sassen AnOther-Magazine-✪-Kinee-Diouf…-♡-stylist-Mattias-Karlsson-☛-Viviane-Sassen.-03 VivianeSassen5 Nimue-Smit-Viviane-Sassen4 Viviane-Sassen sassen VivianeSassen10 carven2 Viviane_Sassen1 med_01_-belladonna-viviane-sassen-jpg Marte_Mei_Van_Haaster_by_Viviane_Sassen_for_Num_ro_147_October_2013_10 Marte_Mei_Van_Haaster_by_Viviane_Sassen_for_Num_ro_147_October_2013_8 Marte_Mei_Van_Haaster_by_Viviane_Sassen_for_Num_ro_147_October_2013_6 Marte_Mei_Van_Haaster_by_Viviane_Sassen_for_Num_ro_147_October_2013_2 Marte_Mei_Van_Haaster_by_Viviane_Sassen_for_Num_ro_147_October_2013_1 AnOther-Magazine-✪-Kinee-Diouf…-♡-stylist-Mattias-Karlsson-☛-Viviane-Sassen.-01 tumblr_mll2u7aPgT1qkgyhdo1_1280 Issue11_Sassen_Viviane_02 lisanne-de-jong9 MARINE-DELEEUW-BY-VIVIANE-SASSEN-FOR-CARVEN-FALL-20131 Viviane_Sassen4 Viviane_Sassen15-600x618 Viviane-Sassen-1 carven-fall-ads6 See more Viviane Sassen. 

Quotes via The Observer

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  1. Morgan says:

    ‘shy exhibitionist’ … love it.

    I wonder what Vivian’s and your view would be on the following NYT book reviews from last Sunday?

    “The Power of Glamour”, reviewed by Leslie Camhi:

    “The jury is still out on glamour. Some critics see it as the scourge of modern society, an illusory opiate doled out by a ruling elite to dazzle the masses into submission. For others glamour is a fragile and endangered species, the inspirational product of simpler times-…”

    The next review has to do with an area of fashion not often considered in the fashion world … why?

    “Hollywood Costume” reviewed by Alexandra Jacobs

    “It may approach a Tom Swifty, but costume designers have an image problem. As fashion designers have inflated to dirigible proportions – stamping their initials on baby bootees, plotting I. P. O.’s and presiding like some kind of self-appointed Warren court over the quivery aspirants of “Project Runway” – their kinfolk in the movie business have receded evermore into the shadows.”

  2. carla berger says:

    I know and love her work…unique!

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