Viviane Sassen: Analemma, Fashion Photography 1992 – 2012

This Autumn The Photographers’ Gallery presents Analemma: Fashion Photography 1992 – 2012. This is the first London exhibition from Viviane Sassen (b. 1972, Netherlands), one of the leading figures working between contemporary art and fashion photography today.

This exhibition features approximately 350 images presented in the form of an immersive installation. It includes award-winning campaigns for Stella McCartney, Adidas, Carven, Bergdorf Goodman, Miu Miu, and M Missoni, along with acclaimed editorial spreads for magazines such as, i-D, Purple, AnOther Magazine, Dazed & Confused and POP.

Known for her experimental approach to image-making, Sassen has conceived a multi-media presentation involving two individual video feeds of scrolling images incorporating mirrors and projections which shift across the space. A short stopmotion film depicting one of her shoots will also be on display, accompanied by a soundtrack from Scottish band, Board of Canada. Through this dynamic display, Sassen aims to disorientate the viewer’s gaze and in turn disrupt their preconceptions about what a fashion photograph is.

The title, Analemma refers to an astronomical term describing an eight-shaped curve, which maps the position of the sun in relation to time. Within the context of this exhibition, Analemma stands as a symbol of the constant seasonal flow of fashion, as well as echoing one of Sassen’s signature aesthetics: arched bodies placed against the light of the sun.

Viviane Sassen trained in fashion design and briefly worked as a model before turning to photography. Her visual vocabulary is informed by her upbringing in Kenya, which Sassen associates with vivid colours and strong contrasts of light and shade. She favours location shooting or brings elements of the natural world into the studio. Other influences are the ‘snapshot’ aesthetic and ‘grittiness’ championed by independent magazines such as Dazed & Confused and Purple. These publications first provided Sassen with the platform and freedom needed for her photographic explorations.

Sassen’s work is characterised by her subversion of the prevailing codes and conventions, which dominate the worlds of fashion and advertising. Eschewing well-worn concepts of glamour and celebrity, Sassen presents an alternative vision, driven by bold colours, abstract shapes, volumes and lines. Sassen’s models, although at the centre of her frames, seem secondary to their settings: figures obscured by light and shadow, transformed into graphic forms and intertwined with props and garments to create sculptural compositions.

Sassen works instinctively and spontaneously. Her sets function as a creative playground with stylists, art directors, models and make-up artists collaborating in the process. The resulting images capture the energy and performative nature of her method, presenting audiences with images that transcend the boundaries of fashion photography.

Featured Image (top left):
Viviane Sassen
In Bloom, Dazed and Confused, July 2011
© Viviane Sassen
Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Image Below:
Viviane Sassen
Gone with the Wind, Zuiderzee Museum, 2008
© Viviane Sassen
Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Image Below:
Viviane Sassen
Untitled, Carven, Spring/Summer, 2012
© Viviane Sassen
Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Image Below:
Viviane Sassen
Corpus Electra, Acne Paper, Spring 2012
© Viviane Sassen
Courtesy of the artists and The Photographers’ Gallery