Expo: VII Photo Gallery, New York, New York
January 11 - February 8, 2013
A YouTube video of a chain smoking Indonesian toddler inspired me to create this series, "Smoking Kids". The video highlighted the cultural differences between the east and west, and questioned notions of smoking being a mainly adult activity.
Adult smokers are the societal norm, so I wanted to point the viewer's focus on the issue of smoking itself. I felt that seeing children smoke would have a surreal impact on the viewer and compel them to truly see the acts of smoking rather than making assumptions about the person doing it.
Coincidentally around the time of the first opening of "Smoking Kids", a law was passed that banned smoking from Belgian bars. There was an outcry from the public about government intervention, feelings that freedom was being oppressed, and that adults were being treated like children.
With health reasons driving many cities to ban smoking, the culture around smoking has a retro feel. Itʼs like a throw back to the ʼMad Menʼ era when smoking on a plane or in a restaurant was not unusual. The aesthetics of smoke and the particular way smokers gesticulate with their hands and their posture cannot be denied, but among the different tribes of "Smoking Kids," - Glamour, Jazz, and The Marginal - there is a nod to less attractive aspects, balancing the line between the beauty and ugliness of smoking.
To assure you of the safety of the children, there were no real cigarettes on set. Instead, chalk and sticks of cheese were used as props, while candles and incense provided the wisps of smoke.
With this series, Janssens questions the feeling of being a single woman and the search for a lover as a kind of hunting. By introducing the theme of Diana, the ancient Roman goddess of the moon and patroness of hunting and virginity, the artist engaged a string of luscious top models to pose for her as Diana’s. All of the models are distinctly feminine and tall, referring to the height of Diana’s stature. They carry typical attributes - be it a lunar crown, a wood stock air rifle, a robust bow, a mighty, dreadful eagle or a herd of hounds and are adorned with leather boots, exquisite garments and eye-catching jewelry made of feathers. The women are pictured in the silence of the early, misty morning, surrounded by a woodland pond or grass, reed and wild plants.Janssens is strongly interested in how some single women behave in their hunt for love. With her series, she’s combining the ancient goddess Diana with the more recent, Western phenomenon of single women hunting for love. The idea for this series started when Janssens talked to her single female friends. Often successful women in their thirties, these singles face peer pressure and social taboos, whether they are breakable or rather detached and rough. These different characteristics are also to be found in the bodies of the Diana’s. Most of the models have a strong, venturous, inaccessible appearance. However an underlying refined fragility is always near. With their daunting gaze they look like the opposite of a submissive, spineless woman. Others conceal a more servile, compliant attitude. They seem to prefer a silent hunt. They evoke impenetrable mystery. The series creates a beautiful synergy between both.With their female vigour, the mythological figures govern the fates of all things. Almost all men depicted in the series have been brought down. They are fallen - reduced to a hunting trophy, a coveted prey, referring to the absurdism of trophy hunting safaris and the hunters posing alongside their downed trophies.
Models: Delfine Bafort, Kjell Bracke, Elise Crombez, Olivier Chapusette, Bram De Beul, Titus De Voogdt, Amélie Lens, Frederik Meijnen, Rose Van Bosstraeten, Anne-Laure Vandeputte, Daphne Velge & Davy Smaers
20 YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHY
December 9 - January 20
The Belgian photographer Frieke Janssens (b. 1980) celebrates her twentieth anniversary as a photographer with an exhibition at Ingrid Deuss gallery in Antwerp.
The exhibition brings together a unique mix of commissioned work and personal work, spanning the entire career of Janssens. More than 200 photos will be on display. The works are deliberately mixed, so that photos of 20 years ago are presented next to more recent work, and commissioned work next to free work. In doing so, the exhibition takes the pictures out of their context and invites people to look at them open-minded, unprejudiced and with an open view. What are the similarities, what are the differences?
Iconic images from well-known series such as Smoking Kids (2011) (in which young kids are “smoking” while posing before the camera), Your Last Shot (2012) (in which people are photographed just as they want to be remembered) and Dianas (2015) (presenting single women as “predators” in their “hunt” for men) are alternated with her work for a large range of clients in both the commercial and the cultural sector, such as Duval Guillaume, Canvas, Klara, De Standaard Magazine, Weekend Knack, Toneelhuis, BMW, M Museum, Channel 4, Stromae, and Theater aan zee. Her latest series animalcoholics will also be on display in the exhibition. In this series, she reflects on alcohol as a socially accepted drug and its position in modern society, creating a large, surrealist panorama.
20 years of photography is above all a celebration of Janssens' love for photography. The exhibition offers a unique look into the world of Frieke Janssens and her way of working. It breaks the parochialism between commissioned work and free work. Janssens style is undeniably recognizable in the pictures, but there is also an evolution in her work. In the past two decades, Frieke Janssens has built a solid reputation in staged photography. Her work is characterized by a precise staging, along with an impeccable command of the technique and a perfect finish. Janssens’ visual language is both surprising and playful and reveals a great sense of humor. Above all, her work often evinces a tension and an unspoken tragic undercurrent.
The exhibition also tries to portray how a professional photographer can make a difference in a world dominated by images. Today, we take photos of almost anything: our lunch, our new shoes, our children. We all present it with accurately framing and the appropriate filters. How can you still make your mark? By making very thoughtful images. Something despicable or a taboo will be presented attractively by Frieke Janssens. Thus, you get an uncomfortable feeling looking at the pictures, like you almost feel guilty to be attracted by the imaging. It is in this way Janssens manages to grab the spotlight. She creates images that you do not forget. She 'abuses' beauty to confuse the viewer.