To start off on these new grounds I thought I would share this picture with you, extracted from the series 'Smoking Kids' by Frieke Janssens. It is the only picture that has travelled from computer to computer with me when one would threaten to break down and I would be moving thousands of files over.
Although the series in its whole is beautiful, I will focus on this picture as this is my favourite.
At first, my interest was sparked by the styling and composition for every detail has been thought through to make the child look as adult-like as possible: the silk gown, the bright red lipstick, the plucked eye-brows and the nail polish. The posing also: the girl is facing away from the camera, starring at her cigarette, she is confident yet absorbed in a stream of thoughts. Ultimately only her small features remind you that you are actually looking at a child.
The impressive but subtle retouching adds to the surreal impact of these pictures, turning incense into cigarettes, pushing the mind to believe that this might not be fake. It forces you to take a minute and look at her in details, to imagine her story and in order to better experience it, to let your imagination fight back societal norms allowing you to react differently to something that would normally be seen as revolting.
It is an ugly subject beautifully executed, at the same time amazing, unsettling and thought provoking. For the past few years I have found increasingly difficult to "stop and stare". Instead I feed on pictures and words as if they were my last meal. Like many others I often look and forget to think, preferring style over substance. Thus, to be confronted with a picture, or a series or anything really that is so intriguing that you will stop whatever else you are doing shows how powerful that piece of work is.