I briefly took a photojournalism class in college and as a result have a deep fondness for the freedom of photography in public space. In some countries this freedom has been curtailed. In France for example, you are not permitted to photograph children in public spaces, even in news situations. For some this is a privacy issue, but a number worry about the long-term results of these laws. Photography in media and art, has played an important role in recording and telling history. Can you imagine someone telling Henri Cartier Bresson he was not permitted to photograph a young boy buying gorceries? Or if someone had stopped Dorthea Lange from her series on families in the Depression Era?
Laws such as these are one of the motivating forces behind Polixeni Papapetrou's Between Worlds series. She presents children as a hybrid: both animal and child, both leisure-seeker and field worker, both shaman and innocent. Despite bright colors and whimsical depictions, this unexplained dichotomy leaves the viewer uneasy. Although their faces are obscurbed by animal heads, they aren't "play-acting;" they appear to be engaged in all sorts of activities, but none are them of children in sterotypical acts of frivolity.
Her work really picks apart the cultural concept and representation of childhood: what is the true condition of childhood and how do we commonly choose to depict it? An archetype of what childhood is has led to extreme laws that span media and art. Yet, as soon as teenage-dom is acheived over-sexualized images of these same individuals is fully acceptable. By hiding and silencing the darker side of childhood what sort of issues are created? This series seems to speak to those issues and the confusion that arises from mis-matched signals. The title itself could be an indication of those who stand between childhood and adulthood, or minds which wander between reality and fantasy...
This series which instantly captivated my eye, quickly occupied my mind and left me pondering the very issues Polixeni sensitively addresses. A very thoughtful and thorough article on Between Two Worlds can be found here.
all Polixeni Papapetrou
all Polixeni Papapetrou
**It is also illegal to photograph children in Spain and Germany; this is not an exclusively French law or necessarily a characteristic example of French laws.