I once was 1986/2017
silkscreen photograph on silver foil on canvas
Gift of Christine Bell through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program, 2019
Courtesy of the Estate of Polixeni Papapetrou
This self-portrait is one of three taken by Polixeni Papapetrou over thirty years ago that she reworked and exhibited in her final commercial exhibition, My Heart: still full of her, in early 2018.
In revisiting and recasting portraits from her archive, Papapetrou poignantly memorialised her youth at a time of great awareness of her imminent death after an extended illness. The tightly framed composition is devoid of the elaborate backdrops, accessories and narratives that had come to characterise her work. I once was represents a direct engagement between the artist, camera and viewer, and symbolically links the beginning and end of her photographic career. As has been said in relation to these reworked portraits: ‘Photography has the unique capacity to freeze time, look backwards and forwards in the same instance.’