Hiding in plain sight: Polixeni Papapetrou and The Ghillies
“My work is about how we define notions of childhood and how we see ourselves as adults in response to those definitions. It’s not so much a biological construct as it is cultural and determined by the world of adults.”
Fantasy, role play and dress-ups have been a fascination for Polixeni Papapetrou from the beginning of her career in the 1980s. In the early years she photographed body builders, drag queens and Elvis impersonators.
Following the birth of her children she made a critical shift in her practice, using them as her models in elaborate tableaux style photographs. Throughout their lives she has explored a range of the stereotypes that surround childhood. Earlier bodies of work considered historical archetypes in relation to contemporary views of childhood, the place of children in society and more recently, as her children moved through adolescence, she has examined issues of identity and the individual.
In Melbourne Now we are showing Papapetrou’s most recent series of photographs The Ghillies, is a reflection on the passing of childhood, the movement from maternally centred worlds to the wider world. She proposes that this is a particularly significant moment for many boys transitioning from childhood into adolescence. They seek to separate themselves from their mothers, and assume the costumes and identities of masculine stereotypes, often hiding themselves in the process. As we can see in Magma man, the figure all but disappears amongst the rocky outcrops of Hanging Rock. A boy quite literally hiding in plain sight.