Flamboya: Is What You See What You Get?

Posted on 2010/04/21


Mimosa

Dutch Photographer, Viviane Sassen was recently quoted as saying, “Coming back to Africa always fills me with joy and melancholy. It feels like coming home, but at the same time I will never fully be part of it, too…” I think these words probably ring true for many of the global diaspora of Africans, I know it does for me personally.

Sassen spent the early part of her childhood years in Kenya. In 2001, she began to frequent the continent and published her series ‘Cape Flats’ that same year, a series primarily shot in South Africa. Since then, her new experiences led her naturally to re-consider her own childhood based image of Africa. Poignantly, through her work as a professional photographer she has come to challenge the prevailing tradition that regards the medium’s ability to produce a definite knowledge about its subjects.

Flamboya documents Sassen’s modern taken on African portraiture often times partly obscuring her subjects.  She explains why to writer Rachel A. Maggart in an interview this past March 2009. ” First of all, I like to look at a picture that doesn’t immediately offer its meaning. If you see a facial expression, it’s always much easier to ‘read’ the picture. I’m much more interested in pictures that make you wonder what’s happening and why… I’m always in doubt of myself; I live very much with contradictions. I’m always much more drawn to the things I don’t know or understand than to situations that are clear and obvious. It is a strange myth that endlessly represents itself that photography as a medium is the best way to tell ‘the truth’ about a person, and here again this belief is an illusion. Also the obscured faces in my work are formalist references to the medium of photography its tradional use of play of light and shadow.”

Viviane Sassen’s ability to create dialogue around the question of Otherness and her  visual sensibility makes for a refined viewpoint on a modern Africa. Happily, the only thing exotic about this work is the title Flamboya, named after a tropical tree.

Viviane Sassen is represented by Motive Gallery.

Flamboya is published and available for purchase via Contrasto Books.

Victoria

Victoria

Totem

Totem

Goldcoast

Goldcoast

Milk

Milk

[Images via Viviane Sassen]

Add to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to Twitter

Advertisements