August 17, 2022

How to photograph like Viviane Sassen

By 1605 Publishers
Inspiration, Photography
Viviane Sassen (Dutch, born 1972) studied fashion design and photography before receiving an MFA from Ateliers Arnhem, the Netherlands. Some of her earliest memories are of life in Kenya, where she spent three years as a child. When her family returned to the Netherlands in 1978, Sassen was troubled: “I didn’t feel like I belonged in Europe, and yet I knew I was a foreigner in Africa,” she says. Ten years later, at age sixteen, Sassen revisited Kenya, and she has been traveling and working in Africa ever since. Her home base is in Amsterdam.

In the second half of the 1990s, a time when the boundaries between fashion and art had been re-negotiated, Sassen became interested in new ways of telling stories with photography. She started working for underground zines like Re-Magazine and other publications that conflated fashion and art, such as Purple,
i-D, and Dazed & Confused. One of the first artists to focus on the expression of cultural diversity in fashion photographs, Sassen took an experimental approach. She moved away from classical ideas about beauty and the central role of the fashion model and opted for formalist compositions executed in harsh sunlight.
There are quite a few element that are typically Sassen's: bright colours, expressive shadows, intertwined bodies, geometrical shapes, personal approach to subject and ability to break cliches. There is also a deeper reason why she creates art the way she does - to offer to a viewer experience of catharsis—the purification of emotions after sadness and fear. Sassen lost her father when she was still young and this experience shaped her work. Fear, anxiety, longing and mourning make her work very attractive, bust sometimes quite disturbing.

"For Umbra I had immersed myself in Jung’s theory of the shadow, the essence of which is that the shadow represents everything that is stored in our subconscious. The things we don’t want to show. The things we’re ashamed of. Afraid of. Where all our hidden anxieties and fantasies lie. In my game with light and dark, I’ve been able to see behind my own shadow. In Umbra I relived my father’s death and was able to process it. I said goodbye to him once again, forever and in peace. He’d had a difficult childhood, but I know for certain that he was happy together with us." - from the text Loss and Longing, by Robbert Ammerlaan, 2017


viviane sassen
viviane sassen
viviane sassen
viviane sassen

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