In line with many prominent Dutch photographers today, the appeal of Viviane Sassen’s work relies on the difficulty in assigning it a label.

This difficulty comes from how her work challenges established genres and straddles divides between dissimilar categories. Is her work documentary, or is it staged? What are her influences? Regardless of diverging opinions on this matter, the access to the photographer’s own personal archive constitutes a precious, if not indispensable, source of information. Motive Gallery is pleased to present The book Sassen, a show curated around and about the working process of Dutch photographer and Prix de Rome winner, Viviane Sassen (1972, Amsterdam).

This year, Sassen was short-listed for the Prix de Rome on the basis of her independent work produced while travelling throughout southern and East Africa since 2002. For her final presentation for the Prix, she gathered Ultra Violet, a collection of new photographs shot in Ghana and which won her first place. Part of the assignment given to the short-listed of the Prix touched upon the idea that the work produced for the occasion shouldn’t merely prolong the artists’ oeuvres but more so, implement it. As a result, Sassen went on developing a new way of working, which involved increased staging. The book Sassen show constitutes an installation based on the book Sassen always carried with her while traveling in Ghana and through which her ideas for new compositions continued to crystallize.

Be they quotes, Polaroid’s or sketches, countless ideas, inspiring statements and original materials follow each other in a random way throughout the numerous pages that form Sassen’s notebook. Although in her early work she always carefully selected and frame her subjects, the way she worked in Ghana for the Prix de Rome stems from a more resolutely staged practice (even if she favours the term ‘compose’ over the one ‘stage,’ hereby avoiding the theatrical implications of this latter term). In an entirely suggestive way, Sassen’s notebook reveals that each photograph embodies a thought, even if not always graphed before hand. Leafing through it constitutes an invitation to lay unexpected connections between varied ideas and inspiration sources. It intimates the possibility of tracking the ungraspable birth of each composition that came to be part of Sassen’s Ultra Violet collection of photographs, and takes us on a travel throughout the creative unconscious of a natural born image-maker.

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