© Polixeni Papapetrou, Dreams are like water, from the series Games of Consequence, 2008
© Polixeni Papapetrou, Ravenswood, from the series Games of Consequence, 2008
“Papapetrou’s fastidiously detailed mise-en-scène fuses landscape and portraiture with ease. Her formal control flexes the camera’s hold on the unsettling tropes of youth. Costumes, props and carefully scouted locations reinforce a highly stylised sensibility to these scenarios, further enhancing their haunting beauty. Resisting digital manipulation, Papapetrou utilises natural light to heighten her vivid palette. Away from our familiar urban environment, Papapetrou’s children act out roles that take us into a familiar but forgotten past. In doing so, Papapetrou induces what she calls the ‘…wonderfully heterogeneous dimensions of childhood, where the fear and danger mix with the angelic.’2
Props are deployed as the accoutrements of childhood games. A skipping rope, hula hoop, quoits and a blindfold accentuate the language of play with all its competitiveness, disappointments, humiliation and taunts. Whether whispering secrets in The fall or tugging a rope before a treacherous ravine in Dight’s Falls, there is an underlying sense of malice and threat. Other photographs are more circumspect and enigmatic. In Miles from nowhere, the main protagonist reclines like Lolita on a banana lounge, her pink gingham frock offset by lurid, red nails. On the cusp of adolescence, Papapetrou’s daughter gazes suspiciously but knowingly at the camera, relaxing in an arid field with a light aircraft nearby.
Papapetrou recalls her own childhood growing up in Port Melbourne with two siblings. Free to roam the streets with her sister and baby brother in a pram, she relishes the memory of ‘going for a Sunday drive’ and road trips to Victoria’s Lake Eildon and to country New South Wales. Now, she is accompanied by her own young family who journey to various locations and sites. This is a family affair. The landscape resides as a backdrop from the dry undulations of Lake Mungo in Wild World, the forest terrain of Ravenswood and the rugged, graffiti sprawl of Sisters Rocks in Stawell.” (…)
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