Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Vee Speers – Photographer

I came across Vee Speers in a Sunday newspaper colour magazine, no point in giving Murdoch a plug, and was immediately interested, When I found Vee’s website the artist’s statement explained why

I don’t like to follow the crowd.
I like to seduce, with images that are at once disturbing and beautiful,
but leaving a space for the viewer to enter my world.
My portraits combine elements which evoke conflicting
emotions that can surprise the viewer, telling a story that is somewhere
between fantasy and reality, the obvious and the unexpected.

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Vee Speers was born in Australia and studied at Queensland College of Art. Her work has been widely exhibited and has been seen in publications including The Sunday Times, Harpers & Queen, Arena, Esquire, and Black & White Magazine.

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In The Guardian she said this:

This started off as an intimate project. I thought it would be good to freeze a few childhood moments before my daughter became a teenager – that’s her in the picture. My kids used to blow bubbles using their hands in the bath, and I wanted to recreate that. But it’s impossible, of course: soap bubbles only last a few seconds. I found something the French call “balloon paste”: it’s a gluey substance you blow through a straw, and you get these sticky, transparent bubbles that last around three minutes.

The picture became part of a bigger series called The Birthday Party. I was imagining a world run by children, not adults – an anarchic world threaded together by an imaginary party.

This is the only picture in the series that I sketched before I started, and it came out exactly the way I had drawn it. I found the outfit from a dance show she’d done at school, a kind of swingy skirt thing.

Then I wanted a big Marge Simpson hairdo, something totally exaggerated to go with the circles and the balloon. A hairdresser came in and built it. He blew up a regular balloon and pasted some hair of the same colour on to it, like papier-mache. We twisted her hair around the balloon, and got it on her head. That was the hard bit. I had to get her in the right position, have her stick her neck out. It was a bit uncomfortable so I worked really fast: I wanted the photo in the can in five minutes. She’s only nine.

I had no idea this project would be interesting to anyone else. Then I started shooting her friends in similarly peculiar styles, and it all took on a life of its own. It started to look strange and interesting, without me forcing it. Then it became a book, with this as the cover image, and the pictures went around the world. It seemed to strike a chord with people.

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Go to her website to see so much more

Born: 1962, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.

Studied: Fine arts at Queensland College of Art, Brisbane.

Inspirations: David Lynch, Tim Burton, Peter Greenaway.

High point: “I’m part of an inaugural exhibition at an amazing museum in Stockholm, with Annie Leibovitz.”

Top tip: “Don’t follow the crowd. Don’t be distracted. Be prepared to work like a dog.”

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