Shot in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Ghana, the ‘Flamboya’ photographs stand as paradigmatic for Sassen’s new way of looking at Africa – one devoid of sentimentality and that through poetical metaphors acknowledges the challenges and drawbacks of its complex reality.
Without giving up figurative means, Sassen went on developing a visual language that questions the stereotypes about Africa and ethnic otherness.
The photographs of African street kids and people from the ghettoes are infused with an almost fashion-like aesthetic, which distinguishes them from the usual images of Africa. They do not fit in the standard imagery mould, with which they set the viewer thinking.
Sassen is also affected by the political and moreal dilemmas. After all, who gives her the right to photograph African street kids? Isn’t there a fundamental imbalance of power? Where does interest end and exploitation begin? And is Sassen projecting her own fantasies and if so, is that permissible? The questions are deeply rooted in her choice of subject, composition and ‘the story’ that she tells with a complete series. However, there is a single element in her photographs that goes straight to the heart of the matter: her play with shadow and contrast, which renders the faces in the images essentially indistinguishable. This is considered something of a taboo when photographing Africans. Sassen turns the tables on the viewer, causing them to challenge their own prejudices and question their source.