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Polixeni Papapetrou lives and works in Melbourne, Victoria. She has shown her work in over forty solo exhibitions and participated in over seventy group exhibitions in Australia and internationally. In 2009, she was the recipient of the Josephine Ulrick-Win Shubert Photography Award. She is represented in private and institutional collections and has been awarded numerous grants from the Australia Council and Arts Victoria. She holds the degrees of PhD 2007 (Monash University), MA Media Arts 1997 (RMIT University), Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts 1984, (University of Melbourne).

When and how did you become interested in Photography?

I worked as an attorney until 2000 when I decided to become full time artist. While working as a lawyer I had an interest in photography that went beyond looking to actually wanting to make images. I began studying photography as a part-time student in 1993. In 2007, I graduated with a PhD in fine arts from Monash University, Melbourne. So I did not have the usual entrance into the art world, coming into it much later than you would normally expect.

What gear do you mainly shoot with?

I use a Hasselblad 503 CW with either an 80 mm lens or a longer focal length lens of 150mm. For the past few years I have been using Kodak NC 160 film but I’m thinking of making a switch to another type of film. I still use film rather than work digitally probably more so out of habit than for any ideological reason. Digital photography is a more economical and efficient way to make pictures today, but I love the quality of film such as the grain (although my printer curses grain). I also like the way that film slows me down when I’m working and how it makes me consider every frame that I take.

What is your #1 source of inspiration?

I work with my children and the work is borne out of our experiences together. They are my inspiration. Every artist needs a muse. 

Many times photographers find themselves with a full schedule of paying gigs, ending up with little time for doing the work they truly love. Do you struggle with finding time for your personal work?

I don’t work as a commercial photographer so I fortunately don’t have to divide my work between commercial and personal. I would find trying to balance the commercial vs personal very difficult and I’m relieved to say that I don’t have to resolve this problem.

What is your all time favorite genre to shoot?

constructed or directorial photography.

Do you have any upcoming shows or events you want our readers to know about?

I just exhibited in Bestiaire: VOZ Galerie, Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris, France and have work at the 3rd Biennale Photoquai, Le musée du quai Branly, from 13 September 2011 – 13 January 2012. I am showing in the exhibition New Worlds at The Museum of Photography, l in Seoul from 27 August to 26 September 2011. My work was included in the exhibition Celebrate Summer at Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco until 27 August and part of Inside Out at Jenkins Johnson Gallery New York from 8 September – 29 October 2011

What is the one thing you feel makes your style or your work unique?

I think that there are many artists currently working with the subject matter of childhood, history, landscape or who create a narrative. I think that what makes my work different is that I combine all of these elements on location using the landscape as a backdrop to stage a drama and tell a story. My work is not made in Photoshop, but on location with camera and film. In the past this authenticity would not have been a point of difference, but it is becoming more so today.

If you could photograph anyone, (past/present/future), who would it be and why?

What a question. If I could photograph anyone before the invention of photography it would be Bach or Shakespeare-that’s a hard call. Being more realistic, however, and just going back to the 19th century, it would be mathematician, logician, story teller and photographer, Charles Dodgson or Lewis Carroll. He had a huge intellect and his contribution to academia and to cultural history has been profound. Today, I’d like photograph Cindy Sherman because I would like to dress her up in my costumes. Looking into the future, it would be amazing to photograph my children as old people, but I’ll be doing this from the other side with my invisible camera.

What’s your dream photo field trip?

Any landscape with good weather, nice light, some interesting cloud formations and not having to worry about deadly snakes and annoying flies in the Australian country side.

What’s your post production process?

I scan my negatives to digital files and the printing is done using Photoshop. Film can misbehave in various situations, the problems caused by the film processing itself and the problems caused by the transfer of film to digital, must be resolved before we can start refining the essence of the picture. I collaborate with Les Walkling, an artist and printer in Melbourne, who prepares my files for printing and turns them into the pictures that are published. There is an expertise that Les brings into the work which is harder to quantify and post-production with him is as much a philosophical process as it is a technical one. You can read all about this awesome man on his website at

If you had unlimited resources to purchase any type of camera, what would it be and why?

A digital Hasselblad camera. I love the way that the Hasselblad feels and looks and the convenience of the digital capture would remove a couple of steps from the process I currently use.

Who are your favorite photographers and why?

I love the spectacle of the dress-ups and performance that appeared in 19th century French and English tableaux photography. The photographers who worked in the tableaux in the 19th century such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Lewis Carroll, Clementina Lady Hawarden and the photographers who photographed Hannah Cullwick and the Countess de Castiglione were ahead of their time. The Victorian photographers were dealing with the themes of illusion, symbolism, the imaginary, theatre and performance. Their work feels very contemporary to me. More recent photographers who work like this and inspire include, Jeff Wall, Ralph Eugene Meatyard who created a family of characters who performed narratives and Cindy Sherman who constantly presents us with an incredible array of characters and personalities. I’m intrigued by the way Yasumasa Morimura reinvents himself and the story-telling magic of Miwa Yanagi’s work. I admire the work of photographers who portray the world around them and in doing so also reveal as much about their inner world. I’m talking about artists such as Diane Arbus, Roger Ballen, Richard Billingham, Martin Parr and Nan Goldin.

What has been the shining moment of your career thus far?

Finding my subject matter.

Do you have any tips/tricks or advice for amateur photo nerds who are looking to shoot full time or students who are just starting out?

I would encourage photographers and students to find the subject matter that inspires them and gives them endless possibilities for interpretation. This is about finding your voice. You usually don’t have to travel very far to find your ideas because they may already be existing under your nose. I think that you must also think critically about what makes a good image. In other words, what is cliche, what is hackneyed, what is a stereotype, what is gratuitous, what is ideologically insensitive etc. Photography is easy in that anyone can take a bad picture, but it requires a lot of thought and work to create a good picture.

What’s the soundtrack to your life and/or your favorite music to listen to while editing?

When I go on my daily walk I listen to music which ranges from classical to 70s to what my friends send me. I have musician friends who send me their music and listening to their compositions is special. When I work, I work in silence. I love the silence as much as the music.

what’s your favorite hang (when shooting or not)?

Home, home and home. Everything I need to make me happy is there.

Best chow (meal/snack) to get you ready for a shoot or best way to celebrate a brilliant capture?

During the day it would have to be a toasted cheese sandwich made with quality bread and cheese and cooked to perfection! In the evening, I always have one good glass of red wine.

will you share with us one of your favorite shots?

I like The Loners from my series Between Worlds. It’s a comment about getting older and feeling more physically more fragile and vulnerable, even feeling more isolated as the world goes spinning past. In my picture, the rabbits in their old age have a quiet life and spend their time by going on walks by the ocean.

Your favorite photo by another photographer?

This is an impossible question and unanswerable. I can’t point to one photograph in the history of photography and single it out. My answer would change everyday as I discovered something new about a picture. So today it is going to be ‘Snow white’ by MiwaYanagi. I love the double spookiness of the figure and the reflection in the mirror.


Has your passion for photography changed at all since turning “pro”?

I never considered myself turning pro as think that this type of terminology belongs in the commercial world. I make pictures which is something I have always loved doing, even before my work was recognized. Nothing has changed in this regard.

Do you have a favorite / lucky item of clothing, outfit or uniform that you like to wear when shooting an important assignment or project?

I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to wear the right shoes in the landscape. I have taken a few falls because I was wearing the wrong type of shoes. And being a Melbourne girl, the colour black is de riguer, whether I’m taking pictures or not.

Are you a photography nerd or a camera gangsta?

I’m just an Ebay gangsta.

What’s your sign?


who would you like to see interviewed by photopolus next?

Anna Gaskell. I love the way she creates narrative in her work.


If you are a photographer and would like to be featured as a future/potential Art Star on our blog, email us! or, subject: Art Star.
*please include your website and examples of your work



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