Tags: cigarette, Frieke Janssens, Ingid Deuss gallery, mad men era, photographs children smoking, portraits of children smoking, vintage looking photos of children
I too was part terrified and part intrigued at first glance of these glamorous looking youngsters in a pondering state, holding a lit cigarette. It immediately reminded me of Maria Marshall’s infamous video of her own child puffing away on a cigarette in an endless loop. But the photographer of these images, Frieke Janssens drew her inspiration from a far more upsetting scenario — a YouTube video that had gone viral of a tubby Indonesian boy with a 40-a-day smoking habit (see video here). The child became a tourist attraction in his country until Child Protective Services found out about it.
Janssens, a Belgium based artist wanted to explore how her audience would react if smoking were removed from its adult context. So here she staged these young and innocent faces, but dressed them in costume from a bygone era which our society often references giddily with smoke filled rooms in cinema scenes of the roaring twenties or the ‘Mad Men’ days. There’s a sense of nostalgia despite the horrifying idea that children could be puffing on a cancer stick as they are pictured above.
Well, cigarettes were actually not allowed in Janssens’ photo shoots of her subjects (ages 4-9 years old). They held a candle or incense as a prop, and a cigarette was later inserted in post-production (phew). But the interesting quandary here is the massive ban on smoking that is sweeping across the globe versus the constant glorification of smoking in movies and television. I’ll admit, it’s sexy to me too, though I’m not a smoker. What do you think: Are we making smoking a forbidden act by promoting it in our everything-vintage-is-cool culture? Or is it really just a thing of the past?