Text Alessandra Lanza
She attended the opening of She at 10 Corso Como with her blonde hair tied up and a cornflower blue blouse, the same shade of many of the images featured in her books as well as in the current exhibition. A shade that brings to mind the skies we have grown accustomed to know through her photography, in particular, that of the image chosen as the poster of She, the exhibition that opened last night at Galleria Carla Sozzani.
Viviane Sassen (1972) is a Dutch photographer who spent her early childhood in Kenya where her father worked as a doctor. Those years in Africa were to have a lasting influence on her photography and, after a work stint in fashion; she realised that her true passion lay not in clothing but images. Images that, in her opinion, should always be capable of igniting the imagination and have the power to keep the viewer lingering on them a moment longer. In her photographs, it is the play of color, light and shadows and the geometries created by shapes and bodies that does it, it is that sense of perfection coupled with an unsettling feeling that is stirred inside the viewer, the scathing delicacy and the actuation of an attraction that is intellectual and subconscious at the same time, thus causing some of those visions to re-emerge and revisit the mind once the exhibition is over or, in the case of her books, once the next page is turned.
The exhibition’s title is She: how is the female body, a consistent element of investigation within your photography, represented in this latest series?
«In this case, I was strongly inspired by the current resurgence in feminism and, as much as I am interested in this movement and the current political debate, for this series, in particular, I wanted something non-political. Something much more ‘organic’, connected to the earth and the matter. This is a work about fertility and women’s ability to give life and breastfeed. In my images, I talk about the love for manual works, about textures and the tactile quality of things, about the earth and baking bread. I do not do this in a literal way, but it is as if what I photographed represented a universal idea of femininity».
Your images often inspire reflection about the photographic medium. Do you think that photography can somehow contribute to the current rebirth of feminism?
«I truly believe that photography has become the most prevalent medium and that so many people have stopped reading. I am not sure I want to make a statement; it is not something I am particularly interested in right now. I am doing something very personal and intuitive. If people can connect with my work on a personal level is great but should that not happen, it is fine too. I do not believe in one truth but in a multitude of opinions. There is not one way of saying things or telling a story; there are many ways, and it is something similar to an organic fertilisation process where we feel that something belongs to us and somehow takes roots within ourselves».
You have released a great deal of books in recent years: how do you approach the planning of an exhibition like She?
«This is not the perfect example of how I normally organise an exhibition since usually I work on a series but following this type of approach: to me a series, or a project generally speaking, is over only when I create a book from it. Producing a book is an extraordinary experience because that way a project feels complete and out there in the world. Creating books, generally speaking, is a very fundamental part of my journey. Moreover, I find them very democratic. Not everyone can afford to buy a print but almost everyone, students included, can afford a book if they truly want it. That is why I love them so much».
SHE – Viviane Sassen
Galleria Carla Sozzani
Corso Como 10 – Milan
20 September – 12 November 2017
Friday – Tuesday 10:30 – 19:30
Wednesday – Thursday 10:30 – 21:00