The Polixeni Papapetrou photograph featured on the cover of the controversial “protest” edition of Australian magazine Art Monthly is actually a tribute to the early photography of Lewis Carroll, the legendary creator of Alice in Wonderland.
The Federal Police have once again been called in to investigate and the publication will be reviewed by the Classification Board. The same Classification Board that rated Bill Henson's photographs G with the most “explicit” image of the confiscated works earning a PG rating.
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), the authors pen name, was also a highly respected visual artist who created over 3000 photographs under his real name Charles Dodgson. Lewis Carroll (Dodgson) became interested in photography in the infancy of this scientific art form and is now regarded as one of the very best Victorian photographers. Of all the Victorian photographers Carroll has had the most influence on modern art photographers.
Most of Carroll’s nude photographs were destroyed, at his instruction, when he died. Out of the 1000 photographs that still exist today only six of them are surviving nudes. Four of the surviving nude portraits are of girls, Evelyn and Beatrice Hatch, and Annie and Frances Henderson.
Lewis Carroll was a Reverend in addition to being the creator of several stories for children and an amateur photographer. Carroll had a tender relationship with Evelyn Hatch, Ethel Hatch and Beatrice Hatch, the daughters of the Reverend Edwin Hatch.
The original Carroll nude photograph featuring Beatrice Hatch:
CURIOUSER and curiouser!
July 8th 2008 06:45
This nude portrait is professionally coloured with a fantasy setting painted in behind the model. Beatrice Hatch sits on a rock with white cliffs behind her. It has been described as whimsical and trite. Carroll was interested in documenting the human body in a time where adult nudity was taboo but child nudity was considered natural.
Papapetrou’s works aim to address the challenge of children in art by photographing her daughter Olympia. In her 2003 series “Dreamchild” Olympia was six years old and posed to replicate the groundbreaking photography of Lewis Carroll. The series merges the past with the present and examines gender, ethnicity, and the human body. In “Olympia as Lewis Carroll’s Beatrice Hatch before White Cliffs” we see Olympia, seated nude on a rock, staring out at the viewer with a naïve yet attentive gaze. The possible interpretation of Olympia as a sexual being is tamed here by the mother-artist who creates a sort of filter between her daughter and the viewer, permitting the child’s innocence to emerge.
The choice of Papapetrou’s Olympia as Lewis Carroll’s Beatrice Hatch before White Cliffs (2003) for our cover may be seen as controversial but is made in the hope of restoring some dignity to the debate; to validate nudity and childhood as subjects for art; to surrender to the power of the imagination (in children and adults) and dialogue without crippling them through fear-mongering and repression.
excerpt from Editorial by Maurice O'Riordan in Art Monthly