Now, please do not view this as en endorsement of either tobacco products or child proximity to thereof, but we’re having trouble looking away from these photographs of smoking kids by Frieke Janssens! Theatrically costumed and staged, children aged four to nine puff and pose with all the “glamour” of their stereotypes: The tiny disheveled housewife blowing rings of smoke, the tough boy big shot dragging on a fat cigar stump, the shameless little gal donning olde cinema drag with a vintage cigarette holder… Yes, it’s a bit disturbing, like Nir Hod’s paintings of elegant smoking boys, but compelling nonetheless.
Spotted by Neatorama, photo series The Beauty of an Ugly Addiction is Janssens’ response to the viral phenomenon of the two-year-old Indonesian nicotine addict and Belgium’s relatively new smoking bans. She asks, does this ban treat adults like children who can’t willfully decide whether or not to partake in this horribly harmful habit? What is it about smoking, aside from the obvious addictive content, that draws people in? Is it its image from film noir? Is it the appeal of its performative consumption, that mannerism or pose that seems to imbue a smoker with a particular sort of character? Flip through some melancholy, surreal portraits of precocious kids in our slide show and stick around for the behind-the-scenes video.