In the Shadow of Viviane Sassen

Courtesy Viviane Sassen
Courtesy Viviane Sassen
Parasomnia

Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen works along the thin line separating art and commerce.  She is dually known for her innovative fashion work in French Vogue, Purple, and POP and for her surrealist African portraiture.

Sassen uses bold, graphic shadows, vivid color and place to create images full of symbols and ambiguity. She obscures faces in deep shadows or turns them away and by doing so, she withholds essential elements which allow the viewer to identify with the subject. “If I were to take pictures of people, of their faces it would be much more about that person,” says Sassen.  Rather than identifying with any singular person, she is interested in something more universal, an idea, an Archetype.  Sassen requires the viewer to assign a narrative, to create the “other.” She spins curiosities into the pictures: a green woman, the body as sculpture, cut-out forms. Paint is used to transform her subjects, putting them into a role as theatre.  Manipulating and shaping the body, overlapping limbs, weaving hair and melding torsos, she acts as sculptor.

“I want to seduce the viewer with a beautiful formal approach,” says Sassen, “and then at the same time, leave something disturbing.”

Viviane Sassen will be awarded the ICP Infinity Prize for Applied/Advertising/Fashion Photography on Tuesday May 10, 2011 in New York City.

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