“I felt that children smoking would have a surreal impact upon the viewer and compel them to truly see the acts of smoking rather than making assumptions about the person doing the act.” Frieke Janssens
Last week, I attended the preview for, “Smoking Kids,” by the Belgian photographer, Frieke Janssens. I was impressed at how much fun an opening could be. Rather than a stuffy affair, it was packed with well-dressed Belgians out in support of one of their own, enjoying live music and good drink. In essence, a party.
Frieke Janssens images of smoking children may, on first take, seem real, but they’re not. With any photographic work, much lies in what we bring to the moment of engagement with the image. Understanding a photographer’s intent, therefore, can sometimes be a little ambiguous. With these beautiful portraits of children, I find that to be the case. Janssens is asking us to question the viewer’s relationship to smoking, and then what? Do these portraits transcend their stylized appeal?
Janssens is an accomplished photographer bold enough to follow her imagination wherever it may lead. She understands how to produce good work, and I salute her. I suspect that despite some finding her depiction of children controversial, much of the work will sell here, as it has in Europe. The exhibit is up until the 8th of February at the VII Gallery in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Stay tuned, you’ll be hearing more about Frieke Janssens. —Lane Nevares