Viviane Sassen

Artist lecture Wednesday, November 02, 2016 7PM
Timken Lecture Hall, California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth St., San Francisco, CA 94107
Belladonna, 2010.

The aesthetic vocabulary of Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen recalls documentary and staged photography, relying on a visual economy that invites the formulation of multiple interpretations. Her highly distinctive style reflects an innovative and dynamic approach to the medium, producing images with an expressive use of color and tone, unusual viewpoints and sculptural concern with form and shape that often give her compositions a surreal quality. Sassen’s photographs constantly disrupt our usual perceptions; while some are carefully constructed, others are scenes she encountered on her travels, leaving us unable to easily distinguish between imaginary fictions and scenes from life.

Much of Sassen’s work has been informed by early memories of life in Kenya, where she spent three years as a child. When her family returned to the Netherlands, Sassen was troubled: “I didn’t feel like I belonged in Europe, and yet I knew I was a foreigner in Africa,” she says. Far from being political or conceptual, she was drawn by an intuitive experience of reality—her childhood in Africa, her vivid memories and the complexity caused by confrontations between the two cultures—to create photographs that are neither exoticizing nor straightforward reportage

Sassen is lauded for her ability to seamlessly bridge the divide between fine art and fashion photography. Her experimental approaches to the medium extend to her commercial work in which she uses mirrors, scissors, paint and Photoshop to subvert the viewer’s preconceptions about what a fashion photograph is. Of these two strands of her practice, Sassen has remarked, “I’ve never seen myself as a fashion photographer or considered myself to be an artist. I’m neither one nor the other, which is actually a very comfortable place to be.”

Sassen studied fashion design and photography at Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, Utrecht, before receiving an MFA from the Ateliers Arhem in The Netherlands. Sassen has produced numerous publications including Flamboya (2007), Parasomnia (2011), Roxane (2011), Die Son Sien Alles (2012), ETAN & ME (2013), and Pikin Slee (2014). In 2012, In and Out of Fashion—a retrospective of Sassen’s fashion work from the last 17 years—opened at Huis Marseille Museum for Photography in Amsterdam; the exhibition travelled to the Rencontres d’Arles Festival, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Savannah College of Art and Design, Fotografie Forum Frankfurt and Fotomuseum Winterthur. Additionally, she has worked on award-winning campaigns for Stella McCartney, Adidas, Miu Miu, and Missoni, and for magazines such as, i-D, Purple, AnOther Magazine, Dazed & Confused and POP. Sassen has received numerous awards for her work, including the Dutch Prix de Rome (2007) and International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award (2011). She lives and works in Amsterdam.


Larry Sultan Visiting Artist Program

Pier 24 Photography is pleased to present the Larry Sultan Visiting Artist Program in collaboration with California College of the Arts and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Each year, the Larry Sultan Visiting Artist Program brings six photographers, writers, and curators to San Francisco to offer free and open lectures, and to work one-on-one with students at California College of the Arts.

Larry Sultan Photography Award

Awoiska van der Molen, #256-17, 2009

Awoiska van der Molen

Fall 2017 Residency
Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA

Click HERE for more information on the Larry Sultan Photography Award

The work of Awoiska van der Molen (b. 1972, Netherlands) develops from a desire to comprehend the core of the isolated world she photographs. In order to achieve the sense of solitude necessary to gain access to the stoic nature of the landscape, she spends long periods of time isolated in the natural environment. She takes time to experience the landscape and penetrates deep into the essence of the remote, hushed world created in her photographs. She immerses herself in the landscape, moves slowly, returns repeatedly and by doing so makes these unknown places her own. This gradual and solitary working process continues into the darkroom where her pictures are printed by hand—an intimate process—further imparting a unique stillness that emanates from her work.