Reading a description of Pikin Slee, deep in the heart of the Suriname rainforest, we’re informed that the village is “without running water, electricity, roads, or the internet”. Well yes, I think one can assume if there is not yet a mains water supply then 20-meg broadband is probably asking a bit much. It also begs the question of how the young man in Viviane Sassen’s photograph charges his mobile telephone. There’s no denying though that Pikin Slee is remote; it was the location’s isolation that first piqued Sassen’s interest on a visit in 2012, and she returned to the South American country (a former colony of her home nation The Netherlands) the following year armed with an analogue camera to shoot the series now on show at the ICA, London.
Lauded as both a fashion and art photographer, Sassen’s gifted eye is clearly evident at the show which primarily consists of images – colour and black and white – from her trip. Pikin Slee is nestled on the banks of the Upper Suriname River, and is only accessible by canoe. The inhabitants, known as Saramaccans after the northern district in which the village lies, live largely unaffected by and independent of the modern world around them, growing their own crops and using the resources afforded by palm and coconut trees. As that mobile shows, however, development is beginning to reach in, altering the village’s way of life for good and bad. Viviane Sassen: Pikin Slee is on show until 12 April in London, and will show at CentrePasquArt in Switzerland, 5 July to 13 September.