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

Bieke Depoorter, from the series I am about to call it a day, 2010.

Bieke Depoorter

Fall 2018 Residency
Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA

Click HERE for more information on the Larry Sultan Photography Award

Photographer Bieke Depoorter (b. 1986, Belgium) travels the world to find her subjects, creating extraordinarily intimate photographs that straddle portraiture, documentary, and fiction. The relationships she creates with those she photographs are the key to her work. As Depoorter describes it, “The relationships I establish with my subjects are the foundation of my artistic practice…. The resulting stories are always partially mine, partially theirs.”

In her early work, Depoorter traveled to far-flung locales in Russia, Egypt, and the United States, befriending locals to photograph. She asked her subjects if she could spend the night in their homes, building rapport and trust that eventually allowed her to capture the mundane, routine, ordinary moments of their lives. Depoorter’s first such project, Ou Menya, documented her encounters in the homes of locals in Russia. She completed a similar, long-term project in the United States titled I am about to call it a day.

In As It May Be, a project photographed in Egypt beginning just after the revolution in 2011, she tried to find trust in a time of turmoil and suspicion, in an environment where private life is often shielded. With this project, she also started to question her use of the photographic medium. Conscious of her status as an outsider, she returned to Egypt in 2017 with the first draft of the book, inviting others to write comments directly on the photographs. Contrasting views on country, religion, society, and photography arise among people who would otherwise never engage in a dialogue with one another. In Sete#15 (2015) and the short film Dvalemodus (2017), she began to conceive of her subjects as actors, projecting her own fictional narratives onto her subjects’ factual environments, thereby blurring the line between her world and theirs. In her most recent projects, such as the ongoing project Agata (2017), Depoorter works even more collaboratively with her subjects.

She has published four books, and her work has been shown in the United States and Europe, including Photomuseum The Hague, The Netherlands and an upcoming exhibition at FOMU Antwerp, Belgium. She joined the Magnum agency as a nominee in 2012 and a full member in 2016. She is the recipient of the Magnum Expression award and the Prix levallois, among other accolades.

Depoorter lives and works in Ghent, Belgium.