Polixeni Papapetrou

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Polixeni Papapetrou (born 1960) is a female photographer from Melbourne, Australia noted for her themed photo series about people's identities. Photo series she has made include Elvis Presley fans, Marilyn Monroe impersonators, drag queens, wrestlers and bodybuilders and the recreation of a photograph of Beatrice Hatch made by Lewis Carroll using her daughter as a model.[1][2][3][4]

Papapetrou has gained international recognition for her thoughtful photographs that contemplate the age of childhood and the childhood imagination. In 2002 she began an intimate[5][6][7][8][9] photographic collaboration with her daughter Olympia Nelson (born 1997) and her son Solomon Nelson (born 1999) and their friends. Papapetrou began making pictures about childhood because she wanted to communicate ideas about our culture that are best expressed through the symbol of the child, but more importantly, she is fascinated by the world of childhood.

Papapetrou engages part reality, part fantasy moving through the mysterious landscape of her home country, using the rich terrain as a backdrop for narratives about the transitional space of childhood. Series about childhood include 'Phantomwise' (2002; 'Haunted Country' (2006), 'Games of Consequence' (2008), 'Between Worlds' (2009); 'The Dreamkeepers' (2012) and 'The Ghillies' (2013). In 2006, Papapetrou moved her work from the realm of fantasy into the natural world. This was a natural as the children were now moving beyond the home into the freedom of the world beyond. Haunted Country (2006) was inspired by nineteenth century real and fictional accounts of children who went missing in the Australian bush. To make these photographs, Papapetrou went to the sites of the most notorious disappearances in Victoria, Australia including the Wimmera, Daylesford, Victoria and Hanging Rock, Victoria, where she staged scenes proposing what the physical and psychological circumstances may have been like for these lost and wandering children. It is the awkward evolution of youth that informs the in‐between spaces she creates in 'Between Worlds (2009)', 'The Dreamkeepers' (2012) and 'The Ghillies (2013)'. In unreal theatrical guises, the children emerge enigmatically; they are present but their child identity recedes: new archetypes emerge as apparitions that speak to us about transformation and self-realizing periods in our lives. Papapetrou's work reflects her continuing interest in metaphors for portraying transitional stages in life. She creates spaces of transformation that the child actors inhabit: a constructed theatrical world, a space of an almost unreality to parallel the liminal period of the children’s lives. Papapetrou trained as a lawyer, graduating with a BA/LLB from the University of Melbourne in 1984. In 1997 she graduated with a Master of Arts, (Media Arts) from RMIT University, Melbourne and in 2007 with a PhD from Monash University, Melbourne.

She has held over 50 solo exhibitions and participated in over 80 group exhibitions throughout Australia, Asia, Europe and the United States. In 2013 the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne held a survey of her work spanning 20 years of practice and a retrospective was held at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney in 2011. Papapetrou has exhibited at major international photographic festivals. Selected grants and awards include Australia Council New Work Grant, 2012, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2000; Arts Victoria, International Touring Grant, 2010; 2007; Arts Victoria Professional Development Grant, 2002; Australian Post-Graduate Research Award, 2002-2005. Recipient of the Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award (2009). Her work appears in over 200 articles, citations and essays. Papapetrou’s work is held in public collections including National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Bendigo Art Gallery; Edith Cowan University, Perth; Geelong Art Gallery; Monash Gallery of Art; Gippsland Art Gallery; Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Queensland; The Arts Centre, Melbourne; Albury Regional Art Gallery, New South Wales; Artbank, Australia; RMIT University, Melbourne; Trinity College, The University of Melbourne; Edith Cowan University, Perth; Murdoch University, Perth; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida.[10]

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