Kids with Cigarettes: Gorgeous or Hideous?

by Jenny Novac on January 14, 2013

In the course of photo shoot, the Belgian photographer gave cigarettes to kids, most of them were at the age of 4, 5 and 6. Smoking Kids is an exhibit going from January 10 till February 8 at New York’s VII gallery. In doing so, she intended to make people to think about inherent contradictions of smoking: Smoking is both the form of great pleasure and harsh pain; it is as hot as it is absurde; it is both the source of a million friendships and an icon of solitude. “If I had took pictures of adults,” said Janssens, “you would not take notice.” Below, there are her answers about her work.

When you developed Smoking Kids, did you plan to shock people?

No, I did not want to shock people. the main goal was to demonstrate people something that I have not already observed. I choose surrealist work. My main intention is to create photos as gorgeous as possible, to present my message in a truly soft way.

Smoke Ringlings

A girl making ringlings

Were those cigarettes and cigars real?

No. We put cheese in the papers – gruyere cheese that is used to be added to spaghetti. I really give consideration to a lot of requirements. I am so detailed and people who work with me laugh at it.

Smoking Cigar

A boy inhaling cigar smoke

Who are the children? Did their parents criticize the photos?

The children are of friends of mine. As well, I asked people by means of Facebook to become a member of the project.  Additionally I made use of a casting agency. I had more than 150 children to decide on, and then I chose 16. I assumed some parents would say no. But they all told me, “It’s not real, cigarettes are not real, there will be no problems with it.”

Cigarillo Smoking

A kid holding a cigarillo

What is “the message” in the photosession?

I never aimed to tell people what to do. The photographs are not to criticize smoking. I would like people to give thought to what smoking is: what it was previously, what it will become later in life. Smoking is bad for people’s health. On the other hand, it’s so enjoyable to smoke cigarettes with friends.


Smoking Pipe

A kid exhaling smoke

Do you think any of the children will become smokers?

When I smoked for the first time, I was at the age of 14. I believed it was cool. I was a smoker myself for several years, and it was truly difficult to give up smoking. I believe smoking is going to disappear.

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