Sacha! – 50 Years of Fashion Photography
19 jun 2021 - 5 dec 2021

Sacha! – 50 Years of Fashion Photography


The exhibition Sacha! – 50 Years of Fashion Photography at Stedelijk Museum Breda tells the story of an unpretentious girl from Rotterdam who made it all the way to the top of the fashion photography world. Her photographs reflect the cultural and social changes that took place during her career which spanned fifty years.

The talent of Sacha van Dorssen (Rotterdam, 1940) became apparent during her internship at fashion magazine Elle in Paris in 1964. Her first photos impressed the art director Peter Knapp so much that she was immediately offered a job, and she never returned to finish her studies at the St Joost School of Design in Breda. Instead, she started working as a photographer and accepted assignments for magazines and advertising campaigns. She has a natural style that she uses to portray exotic scenes as well as lifelike, relatable situations. In her hands, a photo shoot on the beach could result in a luxurious glamour spread or a snapshot of a day out at the seaside. Her favourite working environment is outdoors in natural surroundings, whether it’s the seashore, countryside or desert. The models always look natural in her photographs. In her eyes, women are active and vibrant. This results in scenes in which movement, serendipity and humour all play a role. In all of her pictures, Sacha evokes exactly the right atmosphere to inspire readers to dream about faraway worlds they’d like to belong to.

‘We are honoured to welcome Sacha back to Breda after more than 50 years. She shows that the city can be a springboard to international success.’
- Dingeman Kuilman, general director Stedelijk Museum Breda Seduction

As one of the few female fashion photographers of the time, she never portrayed her (usually female) models as objects, but always showed them as people the viewer can identify with. Seduction is an inextricable element of fashion and advertising photography. After all, the images are intended to arouse a desire in consumers to buy the showcased products. Where her male colleagues sometimes take a straightforward or even vulgar approach, Sacha’s technique is more subtle. Bare legs or a seductive décolleté are enough for her to suggest sensuality in a natural way. This understated approach also colours her working method. In the 1970s a new trend developed where the atmosphere and the story of a fashion plate became more important than the clothing it was advertising. Sometimes this was taken so far that the clothing wasn’t even visible in the final result. Fashion photographers thought of themselves as great artists, pushing their photographs to the verge of autonomous art. Sacha, on the other hand, always kept in mind that her work had a role to play in the magazine’s context. She would conjure up
an alluring atmosphere that also shows off the clothing. Working in a team was one of Sacha’s favourite things. The model, make-up artist, driver and stylist were just as important to her as her own role as a photographer. Her genuine interest in people and her good eye for fabric, how it drapes and the effect lighting has, are great qualities that help her in her work. 

“Beelden met het geluid van de stilte, de tijd is gestold, de rust daalt neer, alles is poëzie.”  - Kenzo Takada (1939-2020), modeontwerper en stichter van modehuis Kenzo

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Marie Claire 1987 Miami Beach, model Veronica Webb in Yves Saint Laurent

A golden combination
This golden combination of qualities made Sacha a much-loved and highly sought-after photographer. She rose to the highest echelons of fashion photography, forging friendships with many of her colleagues. Her clients included Marie Claire, Avenue and Vogue, and she worked with renowned creative directors such as Antoine Kiefer and Nelson Sepulveda. The at-the-time unknown models Grace Jones, Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer who posed for her camera wore trendsetting fashion designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, Comme des Garçons, Agnès B and Dorothée Bis. Her name was also connected with numerous advertising campaigns for big fashion houses such as Yves Saint Laurent and Dior. 

‘Sacha, a photographer who creates beautiful, pure, imaginative photography.’ – Boudewijn Neuteboom, photographer 

The modern woman
A tour of Sacha’s pictures, exhibited both indoors and outdoors in Breda, makes it clear how much fashion photography is a reflection of the zeitgeist. For example, the rise of the luxury travel industry in the 1980s resulted in fashion shoots on the Arctic Circle or an exotic beach, with the model riding an elephant. Her work also mirrors the changing role of women in the turbulent era from the 1960s to the 1980s. Women’s liberation and the sexual revolution were in full swing, topless sunbathing and short skirts were making their appearance. Clients such as Avenue and Elle were interested in the modern woman who makes her own decisions about her life. Sacha presents this woman’s full range of personas: cosmopolitan and rural, girlish and self-confident, informal and professional, explicitly feminine and androgynous. Sacha’s own life also shows the different ways a woman can live. With perseverance, guts and talent she succeeded in realising her childhood dream. She left Breda as a young woman and, half a century later, returned from Paris as a celebrated and much-loved fashion photographer. 

 ’Zij weet de plooival van de stof vast te leggen met de precisie van een Renaissance schilder.’ - Peter Knapp, art director en fotograaf 

Sacha! – 50 Years of Fashion Photographywas (partly) made possible with financial support from Fonds 21 en the Zabawas Foundation


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