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Matinee: Viviane Sassen Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

24 November 2018

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 177th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Viviane Sassen .

"I think there's something magical about photography," Dutch-born photographer Viviane Sassen says at the beginning of this five-minute clip from Nowness.

"You can make things happen," she explains, "that can not happen in real life."

We see the magic she's talking about happen as the video unfolds. She works on some prints as she talks to us and we see a slide show of her intriguing images that range from fashion photography to fine art.

Geometry and abstraction are at the heart of her compositions, which nevertheless remain accessible. A woman in red heels and a white fur lays at the side of a pool, for example, leaning over the water, her hair dripping wet.

The images in her 2014 photobook Pikin Slee provide more good examples of her fascination with making the simple meaningful. It was shot mostly in black-and-white in the Kenyan village where she was brought up that was inhabited by the ancestors of former slaves who escaped Dutch rule.

As she explains in the video, she was influenced on the one hand by the grainy, black-and-white images of documentary photography and, on the other, by the saturated color images of National Geographic. Both idealized the world. But she knew that "the Massai were wearing Nikes at the same time."

This merging of historical culture with more contemporary culture has also intrigued her, finding expression in her unusual but captivating images that can, indeed, resemble magic tricks.

"I feel like I'm always solving little puzzles or making combinations," she told Gem Fletcher in a 2018 interview. "It's all just trial and error. I'm always looking for that little bit of magic."

And she finds it. Enough magic, we might add, to teach Penn and Teller a thing or two.


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