Move over Jill Greenberg, Belgian based photographer Frieke Janssenn has just one-upped you in the controversial children portrait market with his series of smoking children.
Now, before all the parents go up and arms with cyber pitchforks and virtual mobs, Frieke mentions on her site that “there were no real cigarettes on set. Instead, chalk and sticks of cheese were the prop stand ins, while candles and incense provided the wisps of smoke.”
Her inspiration was a Youtube video of a chainsmoking Indonesian child. “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 isolate the viewer’s focus upon the issue of smoking itself. 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…With health reasons driving many cities to ban smoking, the culture around smoking has a retro feel, like the time period of “Mad Men.”
While her concept is unique, but her approach to shooting it is unabashedly simple. In a way, there is something kind of timeless to the photos, almost Dan Winterisque.
You can see in the behind the scenes video that she uses two gridded softboxes and a medium format camera (Hasselblad? Contax?). Smoke was selectively composited in post. That’s it. Simple, beautiful, and unforgettable!
Be sure to check out the rest of his work. He definitely have some great work in his portfolio: frieke.com