In this carefully conceived book, Frieke Janssen's sequences images of stylish children undertaking adult behavior, befuddled animals in sad, awkward and funny tableaux, and the stunning alteration caused by a chalk bath to tidy boys. These quirky, emotional, and intentionally confusing presentations are tempered by cool gravestone portraits of people imagining their own death, followed by a cinematic series of sexualised huntresses in mythic pursuit of mates as prey. All of these photographs arrest us. They literally stop us in our tracks, forcing a second look. They make us uncomfortable; they strike us with reminders of sex, death, and loss of control, presented in forms we could not have expected.
The images are beautiful, faultlessly detailed, and more perfect than anything we could find in the world around us. They are piercingly, believably, heartbreakingly real, yet so patently imagined, envisioned and staged that they become art works for which the word 'surreal' might have been coined.
With SMOKING KIDS I wanted to raise questions about the meaning of smoking: what it meant in the past and what it will mean in the future. It is interesting to monitor the social change around smoking. But the series is even more about context and contradiction. I took smoking out of its context. I suppose in some eastern countries it will be less surreal to see the SMOKING KIDS series, because they are used to seeing kids smoke, hence the image that triggered me for shooting the series. 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. — FRIEKE JANSSENS
Publication date: 1 Feb 2018
Number of pages: 160
Height: 276mm Width: 366m