Monday, May 18, 2009

Jacqueline Hassink: Creator of Car Girls


Exhibition of J.H in the Netherlands


"Car Girls" Photography Collection by Jacqueline Hassink





























Jacqueline Hassink is the creator of several signature art compilations including: "The Table of Power” published by Menno van de Koppel, (Amsterdam), 1000 copies, February 1996. “Female Power Stations: Queen Bees”, published by Menno van de Koppel Amsterdam, 2200 copies, October 1999. “The Table of Power” (reprint) published by Menno van de Koppel, (Amsterdam), 1500 copies, September 2000. “Mindscapes” published by Birkhäuser Verlag (Basel), 3000 copies, 1 March 2003.“The Power Book", published by Chris Boot Ltd. (London), 3000 copies, October 2007.“Domains of Influence”, published by I.B. Tauris (London), 2000 copies, June 2008.“Quarry Walls”,(New York), 10 copies, July 2008. "Car Girls" (luxury edition), published by Aperture, 1500 copies, April 2009. "Car Girls" (travel edition), published by Aperture, 7500 copies, September 2009. Today she spoke with me about her latest artistic exploration and publication, Car Girls. It is as one writer puts it a “huge economic matrix that is otherwise invisible; the car girls are a visual manifestation of all these marketing and branding strategies…”

What inspired you to create the amazing photo collection, Car Girls?

A major part of my work is about economic power and I started my career with the project The Table of Power in 1993. I photographed board room tables of Europe's largest multinationals. In 2001, I befriended a woman who worked for Fortune Magazine and she said, “If you really want to learn about the Japanese economy, you have to visit the car show in Tokyo.”

Did you immediately start taking pictures there?

No. The difference between a journalist and an artist is an artist only takes a camera with him or her if there is a clear idea. When I first went there I didn’t have my camera. I just watched everything. The car industry at the time was one of the richest and most powerful in the world. The sky was the limit…the way the car girls were dressed, the music…it was such a sight. I was fascinated by these car girls. Every brand had a different type of car girl and that’s how the idea started.

Do you mean a different car meant a different type of woman?

This was like eight years ago. There’s a German brand called Volkswagen and they had this tall, blond, Russian girl and she looked like a prima Donna and she had this sophisticated look and then there was a small SUV kind of jeep/car and they had this Japanese girl with a much too revealing, sort of sexy short shorts…that was an extreme example of the difference between the car girls there.

When you were creating Car Girls did you work exclusively on it?

No. When I make my work I work on three or more projects at the same time. What usually happens is all this information starts to bubble in my head and when I’m on the plane from Tokyo to New York for example a concept might shape. I wait usually two, maybe three more weeks and if the idea is still good it almost feels like I’m falling in love. I get butterflies in my stomach and then maybe three or four months later…I begin to embark on the new project. April 2002 was the first car show I photographed right here in New York.

I read you were surprised at how typical the Car Girls were in the United States compared to other countries.

Yes, it’s fascinating. We have one of the most boring car girls in the world! I’m from Holland and I think the United States is very urgent with TV shows, Hollywood but when you go to a car show in New York, it’s just like an office…the girls are in suits. It’s like Anne Taylor style; they’re nothing modern or contemporary about it. I guess the customers are just looking for what they’re familiar with I think. The woman in the United States are mostly participating in the work force so maybe there are more female customers going to car shows and they don’t accept a woman dressed like (this).

What is your interpretation for the use of a car girl at these car shows?

That feeling of luxury in a normal economy, unlike this recession…a car is the largest asset aside from a house….it’s a style icon that comes with the woman. When a man sees a nice car with this gorgeous girl standing next to it, they think, I can get both. I saw this was common in New York but not in other places. In New York some of the men at the shows tried chatting up the car girls. (Laughing)

Really? Why was that not as common in other parts of the world?

I think it’s the culture. The men here may be more outgoing. Also if you look at the photos most of the time, the car girls standing on these circle platforms and they’re just part of the shows.

Where were the most spectacular car girls?

Geneva…it’s the most important in Europe, all the CEOs go there to give their press conferences, Tokyo, Shanghai…Paris is also very nice.

You also became a car girl to experience what it would be like.

I did this also with my other work, I do a self portrait. For this I got a make up artist and a close friend, a photographer in Frankfurt photographed me as a car girl. I was wearing really high heels and people believed I was a car girl. The problem was just that there are different types of girls I was supposed to be a “sexy girl” so it was difficult for me to be judged in this way. You’re in the limelight and all these guys are checking you out and it’s a very strange feeling…I was only there for 15 minutes. After that I just had to go, I wasn’t comfortable.

Are there any artists that inspire you?

No. I travel extensively. I just see what’s happening around me and that’s my source of inspiration.

Do you have a favorite concept that you prefer researching?

They are all different. The thing is more that people react different, but it’s also very personal, the Car Girls concept is very easy for a broad audience to understand while others like Mindscapes only architects, curators and intellectuals would appreciate.

What are some interpretations of Car Girls that people have come up with?

One is that it’s discrimination against woman. I don’t agree because none of the car girls were unhappy in fact most of them think its fun and it’s an easy way for students to make money…instead of working in a bar till late at night, this is what they do. But then again there are different types of car girls. There are the ones that stand there (sexy girls) and then there is also the woman that is professional and is trained by the car company. She sells the car.

Do you have a specific photo technique?

The camera technique is very simple, for the car girls I use a fast film, for the interiors I use a slower film and I work with a tripod. For the car girls there is a very strong focus where I just walk around and wait for these specific moments, for interiors it’s about getting as much information in the photo as possible.

What is the length of these shows?

Really big shows are limited for the press during the first two days, I go the first and the second day for the press and then the show is opened two weeks after that for the public. Sometimes I go twice like I did in Detroit. If there are not enough photos and I need to take more, I went back to that car show the next year. And in between I was spending a lot of time in the Middle East working on another project Arab Domains.

What else were you working on?

Mrs. Haifa Al Kaylani who has an organization that works with very high profile woman in the Arab world (AIWF) was working on a project and I collaborated with her. So I met about 36 Arab women from 18 different countries…I was in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt and all the countries in the middle east…the book came out in the summer of 2008, it was launched in Dubai and was presented….Domain of Influence.

Your book also points out the similarities and differences of uniformity of trends or lack of, depending on the car company….

When I was at the car show in Tokyo I saw a “Volkswagen girl,” the ballerina type, and then I wanted to see how a “Volkswagen girl” looked in Shanghai, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Detroit and New York. The Ferrari girl for example almost always looks the same but if you look at other car brands, another guy in Paris visiting the car girl is looking for a different type of girl and when their eyes fall on a certain girl they want to see more and this is what the shows do on a global scale. I was also interested in how they do this marketing on a smaller scale.

Speak about the music.

It’s like lounge, feel-good music, never aggressive. If you go to my website, that’s the type of music you’d hear. The booth of a Mercedes Benz for example is the same everywhere you go. They want to get you to feel good with the beautiful woman, the contemporary music; it’s like if you go to a W hotel.

And the car girls, how did they feel about being photographed?

They opened up because there were very few female photographers; they were quite friendly all over the world.

What did you discover?

They were doing their thing. Whenever some one took their picture, they would pose. But with me I tried to find these other moments where they were immersed in their work and not really thinking about the camera. I tried to capture them underneath this theatrical façade.

What made you decide to finish this project?

When I spoke with Aperture, we began to print it in China…Irma Boom was very important in the compilation of this book, she created the design of the book. There was a deadline and by then I had enough material to begin to publish the work. There were many people involved in its final creation.

Your work takes on a very unique approach in analyzing the economy and the idea of power. I look forward to further exploring your work and looking at your other publications to compare the different approaches you took to embody this ideal.www.jacquelinehassink.com

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