Disturbing images of smoking children by Belgian photographer Frieke Janssens

Updated: 21 Jan 2012
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Cherubic cheeks framed with gentle ringlets - they are the faces of innocence and beauty. 
But with cigarettes lingering between their fingers or pipes perched between their lips, their images are repulsive.

In an attempt to play the attractiveness and vulgarity of smoking off each other, Belgian photographer Frieke Janssens has captured 15 eerie images of children puffing on cigarettes, cigars or pipes in a collection entitled 'The Beauty of an Ugly Addiction'. 
Disturbing: Belgian photographer Frieke Janssens has captured 15 children smoking cigarettes to draw 'point the viewer's focus on the issue of smoking itself'
Disturbing: Belgian photographer Frieke Janssens has captured 15 children smoking cigarettes to draw 'point the viewer's focus on the issue of smoking itself' 
At odds: The photographs also provide 'a nod to less attractive aspects, on the line between the beauty and ugliness of smoking', Janssens explained
At odds: The photographs also provide 'a nod to less attractive aspects, on the line between the beauty and ugliness of smoking', Janssens explained
The colour images show the youngsters, aged between four and nine, in a selection of adult outfits as they perform the rituals of a smoker - forcing out smoke through the nose, lighting one cigarette with another or mouthing smoke rings.

Their clothes are old-fashioned - with touches of British missionaries, Victorian schoolmistresses and 1920s mobsters - showing the habit as archaic.
Janssens was inspired to capture the images after watching a video of an Indonesian toddler smoking cigarettes that made worldwide headlines in 2010. 
The video, which can be seen below, showed two-year-old Aldi puffing away on cigarettes that dwarfed his chubby hands

Striking: The images show the children performing smokers' rituals, such as forcing cigarette smoke out of their nose (left), blowing smoke rings or chain smoking
Striking: The images show the children performing smokers' rituals, such as forcing cigarette smoke out of their nose (left), blowing smoke rings or chain smoking 
Striking: The children wear a selection of old-fashioned outfits - a reference to Janssens's thought that the culture around smoking has a retro 'Mad Men' feel
Striking: The children wear a selection of old-fashioned outfits - a reference to Janssens's thought that the culture around smoking has a retro 'Mad Men' feel
The youngster, who began smoking aged just 18 months, reportedly smoked a staggering two packs a day - and would bang his head against the wall if his habit was stifled. 
'The video highlighted the cultural differences between the east and west, and questioned notions of smoking being a mainly adult activity,' Janssens wrote on her website. 
'Adult smokers are the societal norm, so I wanted to point the viewer's focus on the issue of smoking itself. 
'I felt that seeing children smoke would have a surreal impact on the viewer and compel them to truly see the acts of smoking rather than making assumptions about the person doing it.' 
In regards to the styling of the photographs, she explained: 'The culture around smoking has a retro feel. 
'It’s like a throw back to the ’Mad Men’ era when smoking on a plane or in a restaurant was not unusual.' 
She added: 'There is a nod to less attractive aspects, on the line between the beauty and ugliness of smoking.' 
She intended to show that the addiction, while often unattractive, can also be the opposite, and can appear regal or sophisticated. 
The photographer did not use real cigarettes during the shoot. Instead, she relied on sticks of chalk or cheese for props, and used candles and incense to create smoke. 
The unsettling photographs have the capacity to warn against the unhealthy habit as well as warning smokers against lighting up in front of their children. 
One Belgian art critic who is familar with the photographer's work wrote on I Love Belgium: 'By portraying adults as children all the attention went to the smoking. An adult would draw to much attention to the portrayed person. 
'Thus these portraits evoke question 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?' 
As well as her own work, Janssens, who was born in Brussels in 1980, also captures images for advertising agencies in her home country. 
SOURCE: Daily Mail
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