The Birthday Party
Painterly portraits with dramatic elements and unique colour compositions are characteristic of Vee Speers' work. In The Birthday Party, we encounter her theatrical portraits of costumed children on their way to an imaginary celebration. Speers came up with the idea for the project during her daughter’s birthday party and considers it to be partly autobiographical, drawing from her own childhood memories in Australia. Against a timeless background, Speers' portraits of children's dress-up are as whimsical as they are threatening. According to Speers, childhood games reflect roles in the adult world, such as father, mother, nurse or soldier.
Many of the children in Speers' photographs are holding objects. Like the attributes of saints, these objects are symbols that give us a glimpse into each child’s imagination. In one photograph, the viewer is confronted by the unhappy gaze of a young girl, dressed up as a nurse. In her hands, she holds a broken doll. A young boy in a soldier’s helmet grasps his rifle. A Caravaggio-esque boy with curly hair graciously models a white dress, the shoulder strap carelessly slips from his shoulder.
Does the children’s role-play in Speers' photographs imply unknown futures? Is Speers' work a comment on gender roles, as suggested to us in our tender youth? Or does she invite the spectator to supplement each narrative with his or her own experiences and associations? In The Birthday Party Speers presents us with more questions than answers. Her engaging imagery brings to mind our own childhood adventures. The Birthday Party is also a reminder of our collective need to escape into our own imaginations.
Vee Speers (b. 1962) studied art and photography at QCA in Brisbane before she started working with still photography for ABC Television in Sydney during the 1980s. After she relocated to Paris in 1990, she began exhibiting her fine artwork. Speers captivated viewers with her theatrical sense and unique palette. Her breakthrough came in 2005 with her series Bordello. Bordello was inspired by the decadent Parisian quarters around Rue St. Denis and its personalities during the 1920s. The exhibition was a success, and toured across the world. The Birthday Party is Speers' latest project. Her works have been published on the cover of Photo International, Images Magazine, The British Journal of Photography, and The Sunday Times UK, among others.
The website will be permanently closed shortly, so please retrieve any content you wish to save.