Over the past two decades, Frieke Janssens (Belgian, b. 1980) has built a solid reputation in staged photography. Her work is characterized by precise staging, as well as an impeccable command of technique and a perfect finish. Janssens’ visual language is both surprising and playful and reveals a great sense of humour. Above all, her work often shows tension and an unspoken tragic undercurrent.
Many communication and advertising agencies call upon her refreshing, original ideas for the production of covers, posters and adverts. She works for a large range of clients in both the commercial and the cultural sector (such as Wieden+Kennedy London, Duval Guillaume, Publicis Conseil Paris, Canvas, KLARA, De Standaard Magazine, Weekend Knack, Toneelhuis, BMW, Museum M, Channel 4, Stromae, Theater aan zee).
In addition to her commissioned work, her personal oeuvre has also gained worldwide interest. The Intoxicated series (2010) is set in the twilight zone of consciousness and unconsciousness. Janssens manages to counter the stiff posing and lack of spontaneity caused by the presence of cameras by photographing intoxicated models. The contrast between artificial lighting and honest body language is striking. Janssens does not shun controversy. In Smoking Kids (2011), she asks young kids to “smoke” while posing before the camera. The photographer plays with different cultural registers associated with the act of smoking. In Your Last Shot (2012), Janssens convinces people to sit for a serene portrait, photographing them as they want to be remembered. In her Dianas series (2015), Janssens works with single women who imagine themselves as “predators” in their “hunt” for men. One of her most touching works this year was Animalcoholics.
Janssens created a large surrealistic panorama of drunk animals. When human beings drink alcohol, it doesn’t take long before the varnish of civilisation is stripped away and they plunge into a state of bestiality. Do animals have the same need to escape as humans? Her patient devotion results in narrative scenes.
Sofie Crabbé is a photo and art critic based in Brussels, Belgium.
Frieke Janssens, 20 years of photography
Through January 20, 2017
Ingrid Deuss Gallery