heARTbeat: Smoking Kids Photography by Frieke Janssens

ColumnPhotographer Frieke Janssens takes us back to a time when smoking was aspirational.

When I was a little kid, both my parents smoked. Movies made smoking aspirational. And it wasn’t unusual to go into public spaces and come out smelling like a dirty ashtray.

Now, utilizing the glamour, lighting and drama of a 1940s Hollywood portrait shooter, Brussels-based photographer Frieke Janssens confronts us with the unexpected shock of seeing children smoke, posing in very adult vignettes (with, uh, cheese substituted for cigs). After getting over the initial jolt and settling on the images themselves – part of a series called “The beauty of an ugly addiction” – the shots beg a few questions.

Tom Tack in his article for I Love Belgium:

The children, aged four to nine, are shameless posing while enjoying their cigarette or cigarillo. So why kids? By portraying adults as children all the attention went to the smoking. An adult would draw too much attention to the portrayed person. Thus these portraits evoke questions such as: is the smoking ban the right way to get rid of an absurd addiction and are smokers treated like little kids who can’t make the difference between good and bad? While Frieke doesn’t give answers, the portraits are strong enough to start your thinking process!

Indeed they are, as we consider the personalities of: Pipe with Contempt, The Bourgeoisie Holder, Fag Ash Lill and Exhale Worries.

In part, Janssens was inspired by that infamous YouTube video of an Indonesian toddler addicted to a 4-pack-a-day nicotine habit. The project also coincided with a general smoking ban introduced in Belgium where, as in America, socially acceptable opportunities to smoke in public are being stubbed out. Janssens was also moved by the fervent reactions Americans have towards smoking, especially our response to the Indonesian toddler.

Janssens says of her craft:

A picture has succeeded, when you can look at it for a while. It can not only just be beautiful neither only interesting. It needs both.

Check out the video Janssens produced while creating “The beauty of an ugly addiction.”

Images via Frieke Janssens.  Inspired by a post in Go To Public School.

Eco, trends, art, creativity and how they tumble through social media to shape culture fascinate EcoSalon columnist Dominique Pacheco. Her trends blog, mixingreality, speaks to these topics daily, and here at EcoSalon, she takes a weekly look at the intersection of eco and art. We call it heARTbeat.

Dominique Pacheco

Dominique Pacheco is the author of EcoSalon's weekly heARTbeat column.