Etan & Me

The self and the other—explorations of identity through portraits in Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen's latest work

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Amsterdam-based photographer Viviane Sassen continues to traverse the creative worlds of fashion, documentary and contemporary art. And while she may be best known for her groundbreaking fashion photography, Sassen’s early childhood in western Kenya left an indelible mark on her work. The photographer’s continued study of light, shape and contrast has taken her from remote African locales to NYC’s MoMA, and in her latest work, “Etan & Me,” Sassen explores themes of love, loss and identity from a village in the South American jungles of Suriname.

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Keeping in step with her previous work “Roxane,” Sassen channels one particular muse to explore complex themes for “Etan & Me.” For this work, inspiration struck in a remote village—deep in the heart of Suriname—with a man named Etan. Sassen’s resulting portraits and accompanying diffused, chaotic self-portraits simultaneously illustrate her technical ability as a photographer to reveal an exceptional starkness amid the brightly colored tropical setting, while laying the groundwork for an analytical narrative. The theme of self-identity runs deep throughout the work, calling to mind the myth of Narcissus, the beautiful hunter who fell in love with his own reflection.

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Sassen again partnered with independent publishing house oodee—the imprint of London-based graphic designer Damien Poulain—for the book. (Poulain has designed books for Sassen as well South African photographer Pieter Hugo’s famous NSFW “Nollywood” and “The Hyena & Other Men.”) Poulain—founder, creative director and editor at oodee—knew his style would complement Sassen’s even before they started working together: “I generally get on automatically with the person behind the work.”

“Etan & Me” is available for preorder from oodee for £40.

Images courtesy of oodee