Photographic Alphabet: V is for Viviane Sassen
By Erica McGrath
Fashion photography is usually pretty direct in its purpose. Advertise a product in a seductive and alluring way enough to make the viewer crave to want and buy it. Viviane Sassen forcefully breaks through this seemingly set mold with her photographic work. By breaking the traditional rules in fashion photography she successfully pioneered a new way to approach fashion without the immediate goal of trying to sell a product. Sassen’s work focuses on the endless creative possibilities of combining fashion, form, and photography. She works in both fashion and fine art worlds and she herself sees a strong distinction between the two, yet the line between fashion and art photography is often blurred and often hard to distinguish; sometimes I question if there is a line at all?
Viviane Sassen is a born native of the Netherlands but spent some of her early childhood years living in Africa. After moving back to the Netherlands from Africa she felt alienated and lost like she did not wholly belong anywhere. Her surreal and sublime imagery tends to reflect this inner struggle of placelessness. In an interview with The Guardian on her series Parasomnia she muses on photography: "The title, Parasomnia, is a term for sleep disorders – sleepwalking, sleep talking, night terrors. Photography is in some way about that for me. 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”.
If there were one word to apply to Sassen’s work I wouldn’t hesitate to say Bold. Whether it is the striking vibrant colors of clothing or the intense black and white contrast in form and subject, each image presented is palpably thick with energy. The photographs all but appear to vibrate off the page or screen being viewed on. While her work is strongly based on past memories and loosely termed “nostalgia” the images are anything but dated. Sassen’s fashion work seems futuristic and models featured are often obscured by their clothing and surroundings. Her work sets a new and daring tone for the future of fashion, art, and photography. Lending endless creativity and questions for an industry that will always be changing and adapting whether it wants to or not. Sassen’s images leave you with a desire of something more than just a need to buy, perhaps an even stronger desire, she leaves you with the need of wanting to know more.