Umbra by Viviane Sassen, Artist : “Sucess and recognition … It has never been a goal by itself. Also when I make my work I am not thinking of any audience, it is only my personal drive”.

© Hanneke van Leeuwen – Collage Viviane Sassen

In September, I discussed with Dutch photographer and visual artist Viviane Sassen (Amsterdam, 1972) about her work, her vision and looking back on her early years. Organized in Paris, at L’Atelier Neerlandais with the support of Nederlands Fotomuseum and The Nederlands Embassy in France, UMBRA, the show implies a very attractive and surprising set with both recent and debut works including multi media installations by the artist. Multi awarded artist and having shot campaigns for Missoni, Lanvin or Carven, Sassen is mostly known by the younger public due to her commissions for Acne Studio. She is represented by gallery Stevenson in Cape Town, South Africa.

Viviane Sassen - Freefall (Rebus-UMBRA series), 2014 © Viviane Sassen

Business Madame : We have all come in direct contact with your latest work. It had a big impact here … I mentioned it with people whom do not belong to the fashion community or creative crowds and they really are aware of your work. Everyone has seen your work and these kind of guerilla campaigns for Acne during the Fashion Weeks. These people are not attending the FIAC, Paris Photo, Frieze or any other kind of art fairs … Do you feel you are adressing a need or a desire, translating your work into a language that is somehow popular ?

Viviane Sassen : It comes from my very own desire to make images I guess. I am always looking for images that make you look twice basically or that make you a bit in doubt or wondering. Fashion photography has always been a kind of platform for me to show my work and be creative and start collaborations with other people. When I started I worked for underground magazines such as Purple Magazine, I.D. And at the time there was also Purple fiction, … all very small magazines. It was a time of experimentation. A lot of photographers like Araki, Nan Goldin were very big stars with the big ego era … Documenting and photographing yourself, your friends, your immediate environment as a kind of counter statement somehow against … all these magazines like Conde Nast.

BM : A counter culture to the main stream media industry …

VS : Yes, somehow. In that sense that was a very interesting time for photography … And then I noticed that fashion and photography had already this kind of mix or there was this melting po. That is why I slept in actually. I also founded a literature and photography magazine with some friends in Holland, a small fanzine. Also it was all pre internet.

BM : You mean the analog era …

VS : Yes. It was very interesting for us at the time to collaborate together in that sense. The independant fashion magazine was a kind of platform. It still functions as my laboratory or my playground although I do not do as much editorials as I used to.

BM : I am just thinking about the upcoming Alex Prager show at the Galerie des Galeries, Paris. She is very young, you are young …

VS : I think she is much younger than I …

BM : Do not apologize for being young, you are as well. We mentioned Nan Goldin whom is much older. Prager is younger. You are making it … She is also. You are getting this international awareness and recognition … You  have reached somekind of maturity … Your work is evolved. I do not think that an artist is ever going to feel confortable with his work but I understand that you are more in control … of what you are doing and how you want to express it.

VS : Thank you.

BM : I was making this comparison with Prager … Artists can make it earlier … It is interesting to see that maybe we are in this digital era … The art and media industry are very different from what it used to be when you started but now artists can get to this level very much younger in their career.

VS :  I see what you mean but that is not necessarily a good thing. Because I think It took me a long time to develop my own style. And I am still developing I hope. I think I do as you said cause I am maturing within my own work. All art in some sense reflects the personality of the maker. I work in a very intuitive way. I am not a conceptional artist by all means. Not completely true by the way but …

BM : You still have a concept but you are not a conceptual artist. It is fine, I really make the difference.

VS : So this is a reflection of who I am now while the things I did in the past were a reflection of who I was then. For instance If you look at the series LARVAE. These are quite images I took when I was 20 and that was a time when I was still much more preoccupied with my own body, my sexuality and discovering yourself. I would not do the same work now. You keep on growing as an artist and you have to. Because you could just keep on doing the same thing and that is maybe what people want from you. And I think since my debut work was my FLAMBOYA serie and there are people still refering to it because they loved it. It is completely fine of  course. But I would be bored if I would keep on doing that work.

BM : Meaning that you are never repeting or sampling yourself … the self you are today being different from the self you were yesterday …

VS : Definitely. How would you compare my work to Prager ?

BM : I guess that was more the career path, from this point of view … I feel that photographers – not only in photography or also contemporary art for which it is more true –  tend to reach global recognition faster. Then you must define what do we call recognition … Define success …  That would be hard for me to define it being either : being part of private collections, entering into institutions, museums, editorial features, commercial commissions …

VS : It has never been a goal by itself. Also when I make my work I am not thinking of any audience, it is only my personal drive … And then later on I think about how to show my work …

Viviane Sassen for Acne StudiosViviane Sassen for Acne StudiosViviane Sassen for Acne Studios Photo credits : Freefall (Rebus-UMBRA series), 2014 © Viviane Sassen, Yellow Vlei (Axiom-UMBRA series), 2014 © Viviane Sassen, SS15 Campaign for Acne Studios © Viviane Sassen

About businessmadame

founder of Business Madame ... since 2007

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