Turning the pages of the latest issue of AnOther Magazine, you come across a startling series of images starring model Kinee Diouf in various oddly exquisite postures. In one shot she floats, balloon-like, tethered to a chair. In another she reclines with her head on her arms, apparently dreaming, while her doppelganger hovers serenely in a bubble overhead. Cut-outs and mirrors echo long shadows, cornfields cut to blank walls, then to open roads and seascapes, and back to blankness. The connecting thread is Kinee herself, dressed uniformly in black, yet she shifts continually throughout the story – she multiplies, she floats, she brandishes a pitchfork, her face is blanked out by light, shadows, a wide brimmed hat. This world is beautiful and inexplicable; yet amid the oddness, the floating, the disjointed limbs, the surreal narrative story, the clothes always shine.
"This world is beautiful and inexplicable; yet amid the oddness, the floating, the disjointed limbs, the surreal flickering narrative, the clothes always shine"
This absorbing weirdness is typical of the work of Viviane Sassen, a photographer whose exhilaratingly elastic interpretations of the traditional fashion story are currently being celebrated in a large scale exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. Forever affected by a three year stint living in Kenya as a very young child, Sassen credits the bright sunshine and vivid colours she experienced there as a constant source of inspiration, one that is not hard to trace through her works. Light is used to blistering effect, sometimes to illuminate, often to distort or obliterate the forms she is photographing. Mirrors flex the perspective, shadows crawl, colours blossom. And within the frame the models lurk, prowl, sprawl, faces blocked by arms, hair, facepaint, swirling dresses, discomfiting poses or simply sliced off by the camera. Reflected in the lens of Viviane Sassen, fashion photography has rarely looked so vivid, so entrancing or so strange. And it’s hard to look away.
Viviane Sassen: In and Out of Fashion is at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, from 19th October to 2nd February 2014.
Text by Tish Wrigley