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3 July 2013

Viviane Sassen, In and Out of Fashion

In the Netherlands and abroad Viviane Sassen is known foremost as an artist, whose somewhat surreal, colourful photographs of Africa won her the Prix de Rome in 2007. Alongside her autonomous work, however, she has long worked as a fashion photographer. Her fashion work is held in high regard, and she has carved out her own unmistakable style.


The retrospective shows images built up like a painting or a collage and which arise in free association and creativity. These are not generally prominent aspects in the cautious climate of today’s largely commercially-driven fashion photography, but they are typical of Viviane Sassen’s fashion photography. Over the last 17 years Sassen has developed a personal language that is sometimes surreal—with intertwined bodies, sculptural compositions and abstract forms—and on occasion perhaps bewildering, but it is always fascinating and full of energy. Sassen’s fashion photography is marked by both innovative strength and a surrealistic beauty. In contrast to her renowned autonomous work, Sassen’s fashion photography is commissioned work that is created in close collaboration with a team of stylists, art directors, models and make-up artists. This means Sassen can treat fashion photography as the ultimate playground, somewhere she can work quickly and intuitively while enjoying the additional benefits of having a professional team on hand to facilitate her experiments. She calls this her ‘Laboratory’.

Viviane Sassen’s spontaneous, non-commercial, and characteristically individual approach has ensured that her fashion photography goes far beyond the usual confines of this medium. The fashion domain affords her the space to carry out experiments that generate a reservoir of material with which to develop the language of her autonomous work.

Co-curated by Viviane Sassen and Nanda van den Berg, curator at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam.


Exhibition venue: Couvent Saint-Césaire, Rencontres d’Arles 2013.