Viviane Sassen x Bottega Veneta


Bottega Veneta’s latest instalment of their Art of Collaboration, the ongoing creative partnerships between Creative Director Tomas Maier and world-renowned artists, is a showcase of their Spring/Summer 2016 collection photographed by artist and photographer Viviane Sassen. This Dutch creative has been widely published in both the fashion and fine arts world.

Her work is strongly influenced by her childhood spent in Kenya, where she came to know the colours, shapes, scents and people of Africa. The beautiful thing is that she portrays African people, some of her favourite subjects, in a different way. “This is not the upbeat optimism of smiling Unicef children, nor the misery fetishism of photojournalism, nor the chic jungle porn of Peter Beard” writes Tim Murphy on the New York Times Style Magazine. Her images do not reflect the stereotypical views and preconceptions that we, as Western viewers, probably have when looking at pictures of African people. Viviane’s view is more abstract, it aims to embrace the whole of humankind, rather than the individual subject. Which is why her models’ faces are usually obscured, hidden in the shadows, their bodies intertwined and entangled in elegant abstractions of the human body: physical contact, as opposed to eye contact, and the way bodies can bend to create new shapes are what fascinate her the most.

You can find some more of her work on my Pinterest board.

“I’m very much aware of the whole debate of my depicting black people in Africa as a white European woman,” she says. “And of me being in control because I’m carrying the camera. But I’m not really interested in that debate, because for me the work comes from a very personal private place. When I’m in Africa, I feel like I’m coming home, yet I also feel like I’m not one of them.”

Her signature graceful, fluid and seemingly casual lines and shapes are also important in her fashion photography. In her collaboration with Bottega Veneta, her predilection for clean lines, geometrical figures and sharp contrasts is underpinned by the background, the Jardin d’Émail, the monumental sculpture by Jean Dubuffet located in the gardens of the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands. For this photoshoot, Viviane focused on the pop of colours and the texture of the garments to create a visually compelling contrast, by shaping the models into performing sculptures.

She says about working as a fashion photographer: “I think it's interesting that fashion can, on the one hand be very superficial, indulgent, navel-gazing and vain. But on the other hand, it can be freeing for an artist to take the space that fashion is used to and be just as decadent: there are very creative people who make some special stuff.” However, as an artist whose background is so strongly connected to Africa and its people, she has to face the industry’s reluctance to include black models in their campaigns: “I often try to get dark skinned girls in fashion campaigns. But that's difficult. A lot of brands hide behind the argument that it wouldn't work for Asian markets. Maybe it's true, I wouldn't know for sure, but then I think: you can also decide as a brand to make that step and make it work. I keep trying, but usually they won't let me.”

“Viviane’s work is both beautiful and enigmatic. You can’t help but be drawn to her images, her atmospheres and the distinct sense of mystery she creates. I admire her bold experimentation and how she breaks the rules yet never loses her balance.”
Tomas Maier

Here you can watch the promo video for the campaign:

Bottega Veneta
The New York Times Style Magazine
GUP Magazine

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