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De fotografie van Viviane Sassen (Amsterdam, 1972) vormt een klasse apart. Zij benadert haar onderwerpen op een intuïtieve manier, los van voorbeelden of referentiekaders. Een lichaam kan ze zien als een sculptuur, en principes als onthullen en verhullen dragen bij aan het raadsel van haar foto’s. Sassen maakt gebruik van de geheimzinnige effecten van schaduw en de flamboyante expressiviteit van kleur. Daarnaast weet ze met sommige modellen een bijzondere intimiteit op te bouwen, waardoor haar foto’s soms erotiserend kunnen zijn, maar tegelijkertijd ook ruimtelijk, contrastrijk of explosief. Altijd zijn haar beelden intrigerend en bijzonder en soms op een bepaalde manier surreëel. In de loop van Viviane Sassens carrière is er aldus een prachtige stroom beelden ontstaan die ze onder meer maakte in Afrika, het continent waar ze een deel van haar jeugd doorbracht. Viviane Sassen ontving in 2007 de Prix de Rome en in 2011 de ICP Infinity Award for applied and Fashion Photography. Naast een fotografe die gelauwerd wordt voor haar autonome werk, is Viviane Sassen een toonaangevend modefotografe die campagnes maakt voor modehuizen als Carven, Stella McCartney, Adidas en Missoni, en editorials voor tijdschriften als Numéro, Double, Another Magazine enDazed & Confused. In tegenstelling tot haar autonome werk ontstaat haar modewerk in een nauwe en spontane samenwerking met stylisten, modellen en make-up artiesten. Modefotografie is de ultieme ‘play ground’ waarin Viviane Sassen snel en intuïtief kan werken met de toegevoegde waarde van een professioneel team dat het experiment helpt faciliteren. Zo wordt haar modewerk een rijke bron, een ultiem laboratorium waarin voortdurend nieuwe ideeën ontstaan. In Huis Marseille zal voor het eerst het beste uit zeventien jaar modewerk van Viviane Sassen getoond worden in een groot retrospectief. Daar hoort onder andere een keuze bij uit de vroege – haast performance-achtige – iconische series die ze met Emmeline de Mooij maakte voor onafhankelijke tijdschriften als Purple en Kutt, maar ook een overvloedige selectie van recent modewerk voor Pop, New York Times Magazine, i-D, Self Service, Purple, Fantastic Man, Acne, Miu Miu, Bergdorf Goodman, Levi’s, Diesel, Louis Vuitton, Eres Numéro en de eerder genoemde tijdschriften en merken. Een deel van de tentoonstelling wordt onder de naam ‘Voorspel’ gewijd aan de bijna abstracte momenten die Viviane Sassen vastlegt voor de shoot begint, en die op de zuiverste wijze haar manier van kijken illustreren. Ook bevat de tentoonstelling een serie die gewijd is aan Roxane Danset – muze en styliste − die haar verscheidenheid toont in tientallen verschillende gezichten. De eigenschappen die mode kenmerken – zoals snelheid, creativiteit, experiment, betovering en glamour – worden benadrukt in de verschillende manieren van tentoonstellen. Gelijktijdig met de tentoonstelling verschijnt een overzichtsboek van het modewerk van Viviane Sassen (Prestel).

Untitled #1, 2011 For POP magazine Viviane Sassen


Untitled #4, 2001 from the KUTT series Viviane Sassen

Untitled # 3, For dazed and Confused Viviane Sassen


Blue Bird, 2010 from the Sol & Luna series Viviane Sassen

Untitled #6, Catherina and Grace Viviane Sassen


CARVEN Campagne Viviane Sasse

Een van de antwoorden op die vragen luidt dat ‘mode’ een vliedend begrip is, dat heel moeilijk – eigenlijk niet - valt te definiëren. Mode is een fenomeen dat nauw verbonden is met de manier


waarop wij leven en dat zich uitstrekt tot veel meer dan kleding alleen. Binnen die grote, overkoepelende betekenis van ‘mode’ in de wereld, is die zogenaamde ‘modewereld’ maar een klein, maar wel beeldbepalend aspect. De modewereld ‘regeert’ over de kleding, de merken en de media die door het publiek als een ‘vertaling’ van (het grotere begrip) mode worden gezien. Die modewereld bestaat uit een klein groepje mensen dat zich over de wereld verplaatst. Het is een carrousel van professionals, gezichten die met elkaar het veld bepalen en opdelen in geannexeerde terreinen. Viviane Sassen neemt binnen die modewereld een heel bijzondere plek in. Dat wordt gaandeweg duidelijk als men de diverse mensen spreekt met wie haar modefotografie tot stand komt. Want in tegenstelling tot de ‘autonome’ kunstfotografie, maak je modefotografie nooit alleen. Er is een heel team van professionals bij betrokken, dat bestaat uit modellen, stylisten, opdrachtgevers, agenten, ontwerpers, art-directors en uitgevers. In het centrum van het fotografisch beeld staat altijd ‘the girl’, het model. ‘The girl’ is heel belangrijk: er is altijd een model waarmee in een bepaald seizoen opeens iedereen wil werken. Soms loopt ze al een tijdje mee en wordt ze opeens ‘gezicht van het moment’. Soms komt ze uit het niets tevoorschijn en verdwijnt ze het volgende seizoen alweer net zo snel. In een zeldzaam geval (Kate Moss) behoudt ze haar sterrenstatus decennialang. Opdrachtgevers hebben voorkeur voor een bepaald model, maar fotografen ook. Voor Viviane Sassen is het belangrijk dat ze ‘rapport’ met een model heeft, dat ze elkaar aanvoelen. Die ‘klik’ heeft Viviane Sassen bijvoorbeeld me het drieëntwintig jaar oude, internationaal succesvolle, Nederlandse model Anna de Rijk. Op haar vijftiende werd Anna door een fotograaf aangeraden om zich bij het Nederlandse agentschap Paparazzi models aan te melden, en aangezien ze destijds een slecht betalend baantje in een natuurwinkel had, volgde ze het advies op. Eerst werkte ze alleen in het weekend, maar na het afronden van het gymnasium, ging ze op haar achttiende full-time aan de slag als model en woonde ze eerst een periode in New York en daarna in Parijs.

Anna de Rijk komt op veel foto’s van Viviane voor, maar lang niet altijd herkenbaar. Soms zien we


alleen haar hand, haar borst of is ze de persoon achter een anonieme, beschaduwde, lichamelijke vorm. Haar specifieke gelaatstrekken - die voor een model in de ‘gewone modefotografie’ bepalend zijn - lijken voor het werken met Viviane niet van primair belang. Wat is dan de bijzondere betrekking die ze met Viviane Sassen heeft? Nanda van den Berg: Als je naar de modefoto’s van Viviane kijkt, dan zie je dat ze vaak met een paar specifieke modellen werkt, zoals met jou. Het lijkt alsof ze met sommige modellen een band heeft, waardoor ze tot de beste resultaten komt. Anna de Rijk: Dat is ook zo. Als je een band met iemand hebt, dan worden de foto’s persoonlijker en ook krachtiger zou ik zeggen. Dan gaat het om wat de persoon in zich heeft, niet dat ze een leeg omhulsel in de foto is. NvdB: Hoe lang werk je al met Viviane? AdR: De eerste keer dat ik met haar werkte was ik zelf nog heel jong, ik denk dat ik achttien was, en toen had ik nog niet een klik met haar – het was gewoon snel een keertje tussendoor. De tweede keer was een paar jaar later, toen was ik 21 en toen schoten we weer een serie samen en toen klikte het heel goed en we hebben hele mooie foto’s gemaakt. Daarna ben ik vaker met haar gaan werken, voor Doublemagazine, voor Numéro… NvdB: Want vraagt zij dan om jou? AdR: Ja. NvdB: Hoe ging die eerste keer dan, ‘snel ertussendoor’, toen je achttien was? AdR: Ik was met nog twee andere modellen. Ik kwam aan, er werd vlug haar en make up gedaan. Ik was best wel verlegen, we waren gewoon snel die foto’s aan het maken. Ik had geen beeld van wat er aan de gang was. Het voelde niet echt alsof we contact met elkaar hadden. NvdB: En waarvoor was die serie? AdR: Ik denk dat het voor Swarovski ‘Crystallized’ was. Het waren een beetje vreemde foto’s met benen die op gekke plekken zitten en zo. NvdB: Vond je dat toen vreemd? AdR: Nee, ik vond het helemaal niet vreemd. Ik vond dat zij heel toffe series maakte. Ik vond haar foto’s al meteen bijzonder en anders. ‘Normale’ modefotografen krijgen inspiratie uit andere modefotografie. Die zijn altijd bezig met poses te zoeken die al eens gedaan zijn. Veel dingen worden alsmaar herkauwd. Ze ontlenen veel inspiratie aan films of oude modeseries of filmsterren. De modewereld blijft allemaal zo in die eigen ‘bubble’ …, Als model krijg je vaak foto’s te zien met instructies als: ‘we willen dat je dit doet en dat doet, met dit gevoel, en dit personage ben je’. Viviane Sassen werkt totaal anders, meer vanuit een abstract beeld, die heeft iets kunstzinnigs. En het lijkt wel alsof het veel meer uit haarzelf komt. Zij laat mij nooit voorbeeldfoto’s zien, of zegt ‘in die sfeer wil ik iets gaan fotograferen vandaag’. Zij zoekt heel erg naar vormen en zij twijfelt nooit – het is net of alles meteen tot haar komt. De compositie is voor haar heel gevoelsmatig en daar is ze trefzeker in, ze werkt ook best snel. Ze begeleidt mij niet zozeer met betrekking tot emoties in je gezicht, die laat ze meer aan mij over. En soms speel ik zelf: het is ook een samenwerkingsverband. Ik zoek zelf ook naar een beweging of een vorm. Het komt een beetje van binnenuit – van haar en het model. Als ik met haar werk, dat lijkt het alsof er een pure kracht is die zij dan vormgeeft. En dan voel je vanzelf dat er echt één lijn in het verhaal zit. En het kan soms best wel sensueel zijn, maar nooit zo dat het cliché-matig sexy wordt. Meer


een soort sensualiteit die iets rauwer is. Een beetje ongelikt.

NvdB: Vertel bijvoorbeeld eens over de opname met de blauwe tepel. Want dat is een echte sensuele foto. Hoe komt die dan tot stand? AdR: Ik zeg nu wel dat zij intuïtief werkt en al die beelden op gevoel schiet , maar ik weet dat zij van tevoren vaak tekeningetjes maakt van wat ze wil doen. Dus zij vroeg mij: ‘Zou jij het erg vinden om topless op de foto te staan?’ Dat hadden ze al van te voren aan mij gevraagd en ik had al gezegd dat ik dat oké zou vinden, maar toen vroeg zij aan mij: ‘Zou je het erg vinden om met een blauwe tepel op de foto te staan?’ Toen moest ik even slikken maar ik dacht: nou, dat vind ik eigenlijk niet erg. Op een kunstzinnig niveau leek mij dat een interessant beeld. Het is heel inspirerend om met haar te werken, omdat het voor mij ook heel creatief is. Het voelt een beetje mime-achtig: ik kan heel erg naar beweging en vorm zoeken en ik vind het gewoon tof dat zij zo’n scherp oog heeft voor vorm. En ook openstaat voor de mening van andere mensen trouwens. Dan vraagt ze: ‘Wat vind jij hiervan, wat vind jij van het beeld?’ Dan neemt ze mijn mening serieus. NvdB: Er zit nog heel veel meer werk van jouw samenwerking met Viviane in de selectie van de tentoonstelling, bijvoorbeeld die sessie met Peter Phillips [make-up artiest van Chanel]


AdR: Ja dat is ook weer een kunstenaar op zichzelf. Ik denk dat Viviane en Phillips van tevoren wel een beetje hadden besproken wat het zou gaan worden. Hij heeft eerst de make up gedaan – die als het ware evolueerde en ‘over het gezicht groeide’ en toen heeft Viviane gezocht naar het beeld dat daar het beste bij past. De styliste – Marie-Chaix - heeft daar ook een groot deel in, als een soort art-director - want die moet de kleding erbij zoeken. NvdB: Zijn er andere modefotografen met wie je fijn werkt, kun je dat vergelijken? AdR: Ik werk veel met Inez [van Lamsweerde] en Vinoodh [Matadin]. Die zijn vriendelijk en zacht en professioneel. Ze werken heel anders dan Viviane Sassen. Zij maken ‘echte modebeelden’, geinspireerd door iconen, door beroemdheden. Ze willen ‘krachtige vrouwen’ maken. In een interview zeiden ze: “Wij willen helden creëeren”, En zo voelt het echt. Inez heeft een heel rustige stem en ze begeleidt je op een heel fijne manier en ze weet heel precies wat ze wil. Ze kan echt iets in je zien wat voorbij je uiterlijk gaat, wat zij dan in een foto wil vertalen. Soms is het ook niet zo trouwens hoor. Maar haar foto’s stralen in ieder geval een bepaald soort kracht uit. Heel veel verschillende krachten. Inez en Vinoodh zien een soort van Charlotte Rampling in me. Zo schieten ze me eigenlijk altijd. Met zulk soort haar en make-up. Viviane Sassen schiet mij veel wilder, zou ik zeggen. Inez schiet ook wel mijzelf, maar met een make-uplaag, met veel meer glamour. NvdB: Viviane zegt wel eens: ik hou niet van mode hoor. AdR: Precies zo is zij. NvdB: Maar hoe moet ik dat dan opvatten, want ze werkt volop in de mode. AdR: Ze is zó niet mode. Ze werkt wel met mode, maar het gaat haar om de vormen en het beeld. En de mode die helpt om het beeld interessant en verrassend te maken. Maar ze hoeft die glamour niet. Ze wil het beeld snel hebben en het moet voor haar spannend blijven. Er zit een vaart in, er zit energie in. En het is fris.


NvdB: Je vertelde dat er de eerste keer dat jullie samenwerkten nog niet zo’n klik was, wat was dan eigenlijk het verschil met de tweede keer? AdR: De tweede keer was in Frankrijk, twee jaar geleden. Drie nachten slapen, twee dagen werken, met z’n allen in een Frans landhuis bij een wijngaard. Daar is de blauwe tepel vandaan, en de foto waar ik naakt op sta met handschoenen aan en een krul in mijn rug. Het was de eerste keer dat ik het deed – naakt poseren – dus dat was best wel … die foto heeft iets heel … NvdB: Iets rauws..


AdR: Ik hoor er verschillende meningen over. Een persoon zegt: dat is een pornofoto en een ander zegt : het is een baby die wordt geboren. NvdB:Het heeft wel iets dierlijks hoor. Belangrijk is dat jij jezelf op je gemak voelde. AdR: Ja, Viviane laat me heel erg op mijn gemak voelen. En het was alleen met haar. Omdat ik het zelf ben, is het wel even slikken, maar ik vind het ook bevrijdend om naakt te kunnen zijn, want dan hoef ik me geen zorgen te maken over hoe ik eruit zie. Het klinkt gek, maar als je naakt bent dan laat je het op een gegeven moment los. Ik vind het iets moois. Iets natuurlijks. NvdB: Viviane fotografeert jou best vaak met een herkenbaar gezicht AdR: Het is wel zo, inderdaad. Ik heb erg het gevoel dat ik mezelf ben op haar foto’s. En dat dierlijke dat zit ook erg in mij, en als ik me ontspan, dan komt dat er gewoon uit. Ik heb het gevoel dat als zij een foto van mijn gezicht maakt, dat het gewoon mijn gezicht is. Ze is heel erg gefixeerd op lichaam en op vorm, maar het is geen onnatuurlijke vorm. Ik heb het gevoel dat er tussen ons een soort gevoelsmatige klik is. En dat er door de foto een vorm van contact is. We maken gewoon samen een beeld. ‘


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Nanda van den Berg: When did Viviane join your agency? It seems like this was an important turning point in her career. Olivia Gideon Thomson: I met Viviane in 2004 and for one reason or another we didn’t start working together then, but when I started We-Folk in 2009 I saw a big feature onFlamboya and I suddenly remembered about Viviane and I thought I should give her a ring and see what she was doing and so yes, she responded and we met and we talked from there. At that point her fashion photography was still very much a big part of what she was doing but she had been very much concentrating on her work for that book, Flamboya, with Hugo. So she was at a point where she was still working in fashion, still had some very big connections in the fashion industry, but for the last three years had been concentrating on her personal work. We quickly decided that her personal work – although important for us to talk about – wasn’t where she needed the support from us. She really just wanted the support in the commercial application of what she did, which was obviously the fashion editorial and the campaign and we sort of got started from there, really. NvdB: Her career has developed over the last few years, hasn’t it? OGT: Yes, she describes it as having “carved out a language”, and spent many years working for publications like Purple and magazines like that which gave her the freedom to create stories that weren’t particularly ‘creativity-driven’ but were a creative way for her to play. She told me recently that she really did carve out her own visual language in terms of her fashion photography, and I think that’s why she is so popular – it’s fresh and unique, and it’s consistent. Although it changes, it’ll deviate, it’s also very consistent: you can tell it’s Viviane, which I think is attractive in a commercial practice. Even though fashion is obviously very commercial, it’s important to have a voice.


NvdB: And how would you describe your own bureau, working in that field of tension between the commercial and the creative? You two are quite well matched, I think. OGT: I think that we both feel very privileged to work in the way that we do within the fashion industry. I feel very strongly that the people I work with should have a very strong voice â&#x20AC;&#x201C; I am not very interested in having a photographer who can apply lots of different styles. I like it when a photographer comes to me and already knows what they want, because I find it a lot more


fulfilling to be working on a whole career rather than on just part of a business. I think that is probably why we connect, because she is the same. In the same way she’s not particularly impressed, she’s not particularly interested in just doing fashion – she has a different relationship to it. So I think with Viviane we’re just in a very privileged position because the people who want her are also like us. They come to us with a confidence and a strength of vision, and they see something in her work and want to work with her for that reason. I think that’s probably what I try to do with the agency across the board, with all of the artists I have – and not all of them work in fashion, but the same sort of reasoning and ambition applies to other areas within the commercial field. I’ve got some very strong photographers working in very corporate advertising and some very strong photographers working in lifestyle – so it’s kind a community of voices, I suppose, rather than one thing that we do over and over again. NvdB: When was the first assignment for you, and how did it come about? OGT: Hm... let me think... we started working with Jonathan Schofield and the Stella McCartney Adidas people quite quickly. So that was the first real commercial fashion campaign that we did together. That was the most relevant, I suppose, to her having an agent to introduce her work to somebody who picks up on it and loves it. And they still work together, you know.


NvdB: How would you describe the role you play in her career? Do you discuss her growth process? OGT: At the moment I am just making sure that she is adequately protected. She’s so popular, everybody wants to shoot with her. Editorially, she has people wanting to shoot with her all the time. She has decided that she only wants to do a few magazines, and she has been very careful about which magazines they were, and then again with the commercial process you try to support her as much as possible in that. Because really I see her at the moment as needing space. I think we’d like to introduce her to a wider audience and try to find more people out there in the industry who will work with Viviane in the right way for her and for them, so we need to find those very sensitive commissioners who have an understanding of the creative process and who can really work closely with a photographer in developing a brand language. You can see that with Carven, for instance. She’s developing something with them. NvdB: That’s fantastic work. OGT: Yes, they understood each other right from the start and found a level where they could do something interesting – and it’s so simple, it doesn’t have to be complicated. That’s the other thing. You could look at this work and think it’s a big concept, but actually her process is very simple. It’s not complicated at all. And I think what we need to do going forward is to try to find more people who have the patience or the time or the interest, the love for what they do, in the same way she does. Keep her away from the heavily commercial stuff. Make sure that what she does for magazines is strong, time and time again, just keep on collaborating with like-minded people. At the same time I feel there’s always a period of time when fashion photographers are used and then art photographers are used in fashion. I’ve seen it happen twice. Fashion looks to art and art looks to fashion, so people like Ryan Mcginley, Roe Ethridge, Alex Präger... all these guys doing ‘artwork in fashion’. What we are trying to do is make sure that she is not commissioned by the fashion world just because she’s considered to be ‘an artist’. She has her own very strong fashion language, so we try to run those two things separately. Although they talk to each other – the two sides of what she does – we try to run them quite differently. Each has its own life, and one shouldn’t depend on the success of the other. We do use that success, of course, but we’re trying not to. She doesn’t want to be – and I don’t want her to be – some


sort of ‘artist shooting fashion’. But you can see what we do: we think about her, about people’s perceptions of her, we think about the quality of what she’s doing, we make sure it’s always 100% for her. We’re just trying to support her in her process. And it’s easier with her because she knows what she wants.

NvdB: So you might show her work to someone because you think they might like her style? OGT: Yeah. It’s selling, in a way, but it’s quite subtle. You have to introduce the work to somebody in the way you imagine they would want to see it. Because of her profile and Flamboyawe had a


fantastic opportunity to introduce her work to people in a very uncommercial way. And then you back it up by giving them a bit more of the story, which is that she was also a fashion photographer. Not only is she a great artist with a clear vision, but she is also someone who worked in fashion. And has gathered a cult following – which they like, they need to know that she can fulfil her brief and collaborate but that she’s also someone with a strong vision. NvdB: How does this vision correspond to their vision? What is that ‘click’ that they pick up on? Her visual language gets picked up. You see that it works. That she can work with a commercial language too. OGT: Yes, it’s fascinating. I think that the industry as a whole has perhaps been waiting for the new generation and that the time was right in many ways – that the disintegration of economies around the world has helped free up the industry in some ways. All the way from 9/11 until about 2008 the industry was extremely narrow. There were five or six photographers who were doing everything. The editorial scene was very narrow, people weren’t experimenting, there wasn’t much exciting work out there and then, when the iPad... when digital got so big, people were worried that magazines would no longer have any relevance, or no-one would want to shoot with them, all that sort of stuff. So I think a lot of people were waiting, and I think there has been an explosion of creativity and people have really wanted to see new stuff. And because there is a huge cult following for Viviane – because she publishes, she exhibits, she has fans around the world – I think that helped the social media aspect of her name and her profile – that really helped disseminate her name amongst the younger audience who just loves what she does. But in terms of the establishment, and people in positions of power – they can see that digital also enables a brand to have lots of different sorts of activities. You can still do an above-the-line print campaign but you also get to do look books, film, digital, online, special projects, you get to do editorialized projects – you get to do all sorts of different things for a brand now. They might look at a photographer like Viviane and say: well she’s very creative, very unique, she’s got a special language, let’s work with that language on this part of our campaign. And so while many people thought there would be less, there’s actually a lot more work you can do now. And the iPad helped, because it’s a photographic format, really, in many ways. I think that’s probably why she’s having such success now. I also think that people like someone to be clear. They want somebody to be confident about what they are doing. That means that while she’s not always going to be right for something, she chooses what she wants to do. And because she has this other very rich part of her career – one that is very fulfilling for her – she doesn’t lean on the industry so much, she doesn’t have to make so many compromises, and that’s where it becomes much easier to represent her, because she’s very clear about what she wants and what she doesn’t want. Viviane has incredible energy, but she’s very instinctive and I think that’s quite exhausting for her. She has this intuition which is the basis of everything she does. And she works – like the Parasomnia and the Flamboya pictures she made – with no plan at all. She arrives in these places and starts work, but she’s unprepared in many ways; not like other photographers we know who plan everything down to the last minute. She arrives and she expends all this energy – so she does need to rest, she has to conserve her energy. And I think we’ve learned how to protect it in many ways. < terug

Guillaume Henry: For me it is a real honour and a real pleasure to work with Viviane. And she is a proper artist. You’ve been speaking of her as a fashion photographer, but for me she’s an artist. I never saw her work as just fashion photography; for me it is more than that. It’s about fashion, of course, but normally, when we think of fashion, we think of obvious beauty. Viviane is not working with an idea of obvious beauty. She could be working with the most beautiful model. But she’s thinking of this model not as a human beauty, but more as a texture, a volume. She makes a new form of beauty with it.


She wants to create volumes, abstraction. I actually forget that her work is photographic. It could be a painting, it could be a collage, it could be… for me it goes beyond skin, pose, attitude – it’s more about colours, volumes, lines. For me the body is as important as the shadow, the background, the light, it’s the sum of all these things. She sees things that she is the only one to see. The thing I love about working with Viviane most is that I never know what the result is going to look like. Because… it’s spontaneous, it’s so intimate, you’re always surprised. Nanda van den Berg: How did you find her? GH: It’s a long story… a long and happy story. I collect images and I love pictures. I adore photos and have collected them for a long time. I cut out pictures I like from magazines and collect them. Sometimes some of these pictures – like this one, from a magazine, it’s not one Viviane made, it’s just a picture I like – they stay with me for maybe six or seven years. There is a picture that Viviane did – maybe ten years ago – that is super precious to me. NvdB: Which one? GH: It was a campaign for another brand. This image – I won’t tell you the brand either, because it’s not the brand I saw, it was the artist. It was the artist’s work that inspired me, that interested me. I hung on to this image for a long time. Then there’s a stylist I really adore, Belén Casadevall, a really great stylist, and she was contributing to the French magazineNuméro, and in the magazine I saw photographs that I loved, and again – because it was not about showing a dress, but more like showing an emotion – the photographer was recreating beauty. Those pictures in Numéro gave me the same emotions as those in this campaign, that I kept for many years. Then I did some research into the photographer.


NvdB: Which series was that? GH: All of them. There’s this one of a black girl, with a huge shadow in front of the face. I like the one she did at La Défense with a white background, very graphic. I like the one she did amongst the stones, by the sea. There are so many! I like some fashion shoots she did – I remember one very well, in Purple – exotic, in a Parisian flat, super weird. She plays with the clothes as if they were a bouquet. A skirt, the fabric and the colour… NvdB: that was the series in Dazed? GH: I love the Dazed one, but this was in the field of flowers. It’s incredible, that one. It’s real art. It’s beyond impressionism. And you forget about the girl. The girls are not… NvdB: Not very important. GH: Yeah. You don’t see her, even though she’s in the centre of the image. I love that; it’s so human. It’s pure poetry for me. And I did some research into the photographer and discovered that it was the same one who did this picture that I had kept for ten years. I’ve always believed in that kind of thing. I’m really intense about images in campaigns, each season, about really encapsulating the message you want to give. I never force myself and we never force ourselves in Carven to show a dress. I don’t like campaigns that are like “this is a dress, buy this dress”. I like an image when it’s about humanity, creativity. The idea is to make people see this emotion, more than just having them think “I want to buy that dress”. That comes through Viviane’s work and Viviane’s eyes. She’s a photographer who puts people at ease. The way she moves around girls, for example – sometimes I see her asking the girls to do something, and I wonder whether they might hurt themselves. But she knows her limits. She never forces any of the girls. When I see Viviane at work it seems as if she uses a kind of child’s instinct. You know? Like when you see a child playing with colours and so on. When the models work with Viviane they have to feel secure, of course, but they abandon themselves. It’s quite magical. I don’t know if it’s voodoo or childishness...


NvdB: Does that happen with all of the models? GH: I saw it twice, because I worked with Viviane twice and it happened both times. The girls lose their self-control and Vivian doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t try to make them vulnerable, she just asks them to forget about being a model. And what I love about Vivianeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pictures is that they look like they happened


by chance. Like beautiful mistakes. You ask yourself: why is there this end on the screen, why is she hidden by a shadow, who is this shadow, is she flying or lying down...? And you don’t know why. Because you know she asks the girl to move around, but it’s not you behind the camera. When I worked with Viviane, we seldom asked her anything. And when you’re not behind the camera, you don’t know what the pictures are going to look like. Is it luck or a mistake? NvdB: Did you work with other photographers in your campaigns? GH: Yes, I can give you the names because I love them as well. I love them very much. Marton Perlaki, beautiful photographer. And Max Farrago. I can show you his work. I always love anonymous pictures, and there is something anonymous about Viviane’s work that I adore. I love pictures that seem to have happened by chance, you know what I mean? I love identity pictures. NvdB: It has something of Viviane’s style. GH: It’s not the same, but he has that ‘by chance’ thing I love. We did three campaigns together: the first, the second and the third. NvdB: They seem to show a comparable sensibility. GH: Yes. Again, the girl is not on show. I love it when you can’t really see the girl properly.


Nanda van den Berg: One of the galleries in the museum will only contain photographs that Viviane took before the fashion shoot starts. You see abstract pictures of people – stylists like you, hairdressers, make-up people – working on the model. Viviane calls this series ‘Foreplay’. Vanessa Reid: I like that she calls it ‘Foreplay’, because when you work in fashion it is definitely all about play. You can start a shoot, with lots of different tantalizing ideas, and suddenly you realize you just don’t know how the whole thing’s going to come out. And before the shoot, too - the whole process, really - there are lots of exciting moments when things can go either way. NvdB: Viviane said ‘You should see us – we work very fast together.’ VR: That’s the thing, you know, when you start a collaboration, and you have all these ideas, surreal, subconscious visuals, and she says wow, and OK, what shall we do? And there are restrictions – of time, of taste, all these things. There are all these limitations, and you have to work fast and think intuitively. There is an incredible energy between us, when we literally work instinctively, automatically. I put together what I need to do and she does what she’s going to do, we both know we’re going to make pictures, and it’s like 100% instinct. I mean, she’s got a sense of colour, and form, and all these things I am really into... we share an aesthetic because I also think in colour, I need textures, I need shapes, so I guess that helps the process, because we both get it. So we build these images. When she’s building a composition it’s like painting a picture, you know? The colours, all those elements start coming together.


NvdB: The work you’ve done together, like ‘Hoover’ in thePop editorial, is very strong. VR: That’s lovely to hear. When we work together, there’s an openness to experiment and a willingness to be free and to let it all flow. That’s not easy to find, you know. A lot of people in fashion are really uptight, really controlled. And some of Viviane’s images might seem controlled or look a bit contrived, but they aren’t at all. There’s just a moment, ‘boom’ – and I think that this approach has been completely lost in fashion photography, in the whole fashion industry. When I started out I was anxiously looking for people to work with, people I thought would be like-minded. And she definitely stood out from the crowd. Not that I would ever consider her a ‘fashion photographer’, she’s much more than that. She covers so many aspects of photography. We just have a similar perspective.


NvdB: How did you meet? VR: The first time was at a shoot in London. She wasn’t really shooting much at that time. She started shooting a bit for editorials and fashion and I called her up and spoke to her about doing a shoot and Pop… I’ve known her work from back in the day, with Purple and that whole period of


her work. WithPop I wanted to create something new, I guess. NvdB: When was this? VR: About 5 years ago. NvdB: can you tell us something about your own background? VR: My own background is more in film. I didn’t study fashion, so I came from a different perspective altogether. I ended up living in Paris. I lived with a fashion photographer and that is how I was introduced to fashion. My eye was never trained in fashion, but then I got quite into it. At first I worked with French Vogue – I was up there working with people from all different brands. That was a different time… I felt I was ready to go out and explore other things. I didn’t feel ready to jump right into that kind of world. I wanted to experiment more, and be a bit more free. There’s a time and a place for everything, and Pop basically gave me that freedom. I remember that I really wanted to do things differently. I didn’t want to sit back and recreate images which meant nothing to me whatsoever. The digital revolution kind of came in through fashion photography, and suddenly everyone thought they could be a fashion photographer. I found it numbing, how little thought and consideration and love was involved... the picture was right in front of you, and that changed perception. I’m not saying the digital thing is not amazing – Viviane works digitally – but I find that fashion photography on the whole just lost the sense of the moment. This is a huge generalization, but finding people to collaborate with what I wanted to do got very, very hard. A lot of magazines now are so controlled that fashion is losing its sense of self. It’s a real shame, because it never used to be like that. When I started out, my generation was brought up by The Face, i-D, those kinds of magazines. And suddenly it got lost in translation. Things should be questioned more, and that is what Viviane does with her images. They make you stop and question beauty, question yourself, how you feel about something. Obviously they are different and strange and abstract, and sometimes it really does your head in. You think: my god, what is this, is this beauty? It makes you feel alive. These days you can look at images in magazines and everything has been retouched in a generic way and everyone chooses the same models and likes the same clothes. Styling has gone out of the window. With Viviane you feel alive, you look at the pictures and you don’t know what’s going on. They are so distinctively hers. You can feel the mystery. It’s not like a straightforward thing. I guess that’s what images should be, in a way – especially now that there are so many images, there’s internet and if you get something into print, especially in a magazine, you’ve got to have something to say, because images are everywhere. You need something to excite people more, because they see so many different images. They are interacting at such a visual level that sometimes images in a magazine don’t mean anything. I think that if you look at an image by Viviane it’s arresting. You feel seduced, whether in a good or a bad way. You’re definitely left to interpret the image in any way that you want. You know? NvdB: Viviane no longer does more commercial magazines. Do you think it will stay that way? VR: Well, I did some commercial work with Viviane too. We did some advertising together. It’s a different process. Again there’s limitation and restriction because you can’t push it as far as you would like to. Sometimes with Pop you can really take it to the next level. We go right beyond, and we’re just lost in the fantasy of it all. That’s how I think it should be. It should be a place to play around and to experiment. Each project is different. But with the advertising we’ve done, you’ve got to adhere to a lot of different requirements, and different desires. You’ve got their expectations, and it’s a different thing. Sometimes it’s difficult. They want a girl to be projected in a certain way. You always have to come to a certain compromise, but it’s still a valid exercise and I think that when people are brave enough to take on Viviane – because she’s not the obvious choice – it’s a great company. They may feel threatened by it, sometimes people find her too much. But she’s very flexible. She’s such easy company, she’s so easy to work with, there’s no


confusion with her. It’s funny, that’s why you can put her in any kind of environment. She can work really well with a team, and clients love that.

NvdB: OGT says she needs time to recuperate and work on her art between fashion shoots. VR: Yes, when you’re in this kind of industry and you’re doing back-to-back shooting, you can get lost in a kind of Hoover. I love what you told me about that fashion image. It’s a fashion Hoover! You get sucked up! And you’re like: hang on a second. You have to stop and retreat, and with anything you do you need to have a certain distance. There’s an ongoing dialogue between me and Viviane. We’ll be doing a shoot, and we’ll have an idea and say “OK, we’ll do that on the next shoot.” It’s like a conversation that doesn’t stop. There are so many ideas and things we want to do together. It’s just a beautiful relationship like that. One idea sparks off another. NvdB: What would be the ideal scenario for you two? VR: Vivian shoots amazingly on location. On location you really don’t know what you’re going to get. A magazine shoot feels so different on location. The other day it was impossible, it was raining, so we were shooting in a hotel room the size of a box. And you have to get creative and think outside of this box when you’re actually inside it and thinking: what are we going to do? That’s another thing that I appreciate about Viviane. When something crazy happens and you think: could this get any better? Like ‘Boom’. We went to Mount Kilimanjaro, and it turned into an incredible shoot. It was also for Pop. But it was much more intimate because we had local casting. I had eight big suitcases of clothes and I flew to Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, of all possible places. It was a nightmare. When they arrived I only had two days left, because I had a back-to-back – I wanted to stay in Kilimanjaro, but there was no way. I said to Viviane: “You’re here, so let’s make it happen. Let’s do Pop Africa.


It was one of those African torrential rains and we were in and out of pockets of light. That, and also the fact that they’d lost about four pieces of my luggage, so we didn’t have the clothes. We were just waiting, calling the customs people in Africa. I had my husband on the other line in Paris and we were kind of tracking it down for ages. But we did it, and it was amazing, and somehow everything panned out. It was another amazing, iconic story. I was really in her territory, you know, and it didn’t feel like a fashion story at all, much more like a beautiful project, and it was our project, it felt like a Blair Witch movie. That was ‘Digitech’. There were times when Viviane and me were so impatient we ended up doing hair and make-up ourselves. We definitely start building like that. And as you say: it is quick,


instinctive, and also about not being so precious about things. Being creative and free is not like that precious control that a lot of people tend to have. It is only fashion, so let it go. It’s about being free in your head to let it all flow. Because otherwise you block things, and then it looks like you’re blocking things, like you’ve got one big barrier. Because you’re trying too hard. I think you have to switch off reason and logic, and that’s what Viviane and me do. It all goes out of the window. NvdB: is it really always the case that creative people are working for nothing, even in Numéro? VR: Even in Numéro. All of these magazines think they’re doing you a favour because you’re getting an outlet, a creative outlet, to expose your stuff so people can see it. It’s crazy; you work extremely hard. But what I find terrifying is that styling has gone out of the window. NvdB: What do you mean? VR: Well there are so many restrictions now, when people like advertisers want you to shoot certain items and their designers get uppity and want you to shoot their total look. So instead of being able to play around with different shapes and textures and building something else, suddenly it’s all about someone else’s total look. So the whole exercise of styling, which for me is about reinterpreting a collection – reinterpreting it in a way that you can take it to the magazine and single it out – that’s all gone. People are taking the total looks that you see on the catwalks to the magazine, and it’s boring, it’s boring. Who wants to see the same look that has obviously been all over the internet before the show’s even finished? Stylists need to play around, we need to have fun, to propose and question and experiment with fashion – and that’s gone, really. NvdB: Do you think Viviane will stay in fashion? VR: The thing about fashion is, it’s very all-consuming and people can often be rather aggressive. And Viviane is not like that as a person. She is really down-to-earth. Fashion can be very soul-sucking. You have to be allowed to balance it out, to feed your soul and keep your balance, if you want to keep being inspired and keep loving it. Fashion is fun! If you can find a collaborator, if you can find a dynamic with somebody like Viviane, you’re just really excited to be shooting. Again, it’s a beautiful relationship. You’re on a poetic journey together; you’re carrying on a dialogue. It’s very exciting because you know this shoot will let you discover something new. It’s a great experience. I think Viviane will get to the point that she gets to edit what she wants to do. To decide what’s best for her. The more you work, the clearer you have to be... NvdB: She’s very much in demand. VR: Oh God, yeah. And you have to understand each other, as well. That’s the main thing. It’s so much about collaboration. You have to have a connection. If you work with a bad stylist, you’re going to get a bad image. You have to get the aesthetics right. You have to decide if it’s right for you. There has to be a point of view.

De mode wereld over viviane sassen  

De mode wereld over viviane sassen

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