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Polixeni Papapetrou

Polixeni Papapetrou is interested in the interplay between history, personal identity, fantasy and fiction. Since the birth of her children, her subject matter has shifted to the representation of childhood in photography. Since beginning her various projects on childhood, Papapetrou has shifted from almost exclusively photographing her daughter in the series Phantomwise (2002-3), Dreamchild (2003), Wonderland (2004) to making works that include her son and her children’s friends, such as Haunted Country (2006). Engaging with the child’s imaginative experimentation with roles, archetypes, and performance, Papapetrou’s work examines the transformative power of fancy dress and scenography.

Papapetrou is interested in the way the female child portrays herself (historically and now in her own family), exploring the boundaries of body, gender and ethnicity through dress and performance. In the series Phantomwise 2002-3, Papapetrou photographed her daughter wearing an array of elaborate costumes and Victorian masks, which partly concealed her face, performing a range of roles and historical characters before the camera. This theme was explored further in Dreamchild, 2003 and Wonderland, 2004 where Papapetrou and her daughter Olympia reworked the theatricality and vivid tableaux style of Carroll’s images of Alice Liddell (the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and other favoured Carroll child subjects. ‘

In Haunted Country (2006) Papapetrou explores the theme of the lost child, one of the most poignant themes in Australia’s history of childhood and cultural remembering. Haunted Country embodies the harrowing psychological aspects of stories of children lost in the Australian landscape and makes connections between past and present consciousness about childhood, land and country.