Social Media

Book of the Week: A Pick by Christopher J. Johnson

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Christopher J. Johnson Reviewer and poet Christopher J. Johnson selects Pikin Slee by Viviane Sassen as photo-eye Book of the Week.
Pikin Slee. By Viviane Sassen.
Prestel, 2014.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from reviewer and poet Christopher J. Johnson who has selected Pikin Slee by Viviane Sassen published by Prestel.

"Viviane Sassen’s latest collection, Pikin Slee, is out of the ordinary for a fashion photographer usually associated with strong form and color. It is, rather than Sassen’s usual mode, something new.

The photos, largely black and white, are all from a village along the Upper Suriname River. What captured Sassen’s attention about the village, as she tells us in a brief essay from the book, “was the very traditional way of living, alongside the presence of mundane objects of modern daily life.”

There is a primitivism at play here, not in her human subjects, but in the objects she presents. The manufactured items within the photographs serve as nothing more than vessels, replacing handmade ceramic pots and plates, but not evolving beyond utility. The beauty of these objects found through Pikin Slee is utility itself.

This book is about forms emerging anew to take up positions as old as culture itself. The clash and imperfection of the juxtaposition between manufactured items and natural objects seem to mark a new direction in Sassen’s work; one that is both refreshing and, somehow, not quite detached from her previous work. Form and color are still present, but they seem to haunt the sidelines or fill in the gaps.

What remains the same, what stays Sassenesque, is a strong impulse to exaggerate. So many pictures place their subject in the center of the photograph; a cup of rice, a palm leaf, a green bag, become in essence more than a still-life, taking on a purpose that moves beyond the aesthetic.

If you want to see some comfortable, good Viviane Sassen work check out In and Out of Fashion, but if you want to see a photographer begin to evolve, trying something new while keeping some of the imprints that made their name, take a look at Pikin Slee. Long-time admirers might, at first be disappointed, but this is only an earmark of change. Look deeper, think broader, and appreciate Pikin Slee for being what it is, a new and welcome change."—Christopher J. Johnson

Read the review by Allie Haeusslein

Purchase Book

Pikin Slee. By Viviane Sassen. Prestel, 2014.
Pikin Slee. By Viviane Sassen. Prestel, 2014.

Christopher J. Johnson is originally from Madison Wisconsin. He came to Santa Fe in 2002 and graduated from the College of Santa Fe majoring in English with an emphasis in poetry. He is a freelance writer and reporter.

See more Book of the Week picks