The idea of stopping time and preserving fleeting moments is, in many ways, at the heart of photography and central to human desire. Psychologically and emotionally, humans have always dreaded growing old, losing youthful vigor, and falling prey to the weaknesses of old age, faulty memories, morbidity, decay and death.
These fears and anxieties are deeply rooted in our psyches, and have been played out in ancient myths, classical painting, modern poetry, theater and cinema, as well as in practically every other art form in the history of humanity, including digital gaming.
We don’t want to grow old and weak, nor do we want our children and loved ones to grow old. We would like to stay forever young. We want to be beautiful, desirable, powerful and perfect like gods and goddesses. Or at least we think we do.
Vee Speers’ latest body of photo-based art, aptly titled Immortal, plays to these age-old sensibilities and timeless longings while riffing on the very contemporary convergence of similar ideas, ideals, and forms that have invaded our consciousness in our media-driven, technology-rich consumer cultures.
At once alluring and disquieting, these portraits of naked beautiful youths are set against backdrops of Eden-like natural beauty, or scenes of post-apocalyptic destruction. These Immortals are real people, young and beautiful, but they seem isolated, exposed and vulnerable, trapped, distant, on guard, defiant, all alone in a strange land, and confronted by echoes of subliminal fears and insecurities.
With the smooth gloss sheen of fashion-model perfection and an air of computer-generated artificiality, Speers has created a new world that merges Mona Lisa charm and mystery, with the melancholy of Dorian Gray, and the 3D cartoon poignancy of the movie Avatar.
The surface is loaded with reference both to classical art, and to the airbrushed Photoshop perfection of youthful beauty that has become the everyday obsession of western culture.
These are also meditations, I think, on contemporary social cultures that are so thoroughly embedded with digital interaction and technological isolation. We fashion, choose and transmit images of ourselves via FaceBook and internet chat to achieve an effect and to project an image. Thousands of people prefer to inhabit artificial online animated worlds populated by flawless alter egos. This behavior is not antisocial or artificial exactly, but it does permit and encourage posing, posturing and fantasy that requires less and less real physical interaction. We're connected but quite often all alone.
Finally, I think what makes Immortal work so well, is the direct gaze that Speers elicits from her subjects. The look is genuine — whether it is detached, disdainful, modest, defiant, arrogant, melancholy, worried, or puffed up with peacock machismo. These Immortals are all like tragic fallen angels, eyes opened with animal intelligence, looking out onto an uncertain future, not even aware of how perfectly beautiful they appear to be right now.
— Jim Casper
Raw, unvarnished, straight from the night-lit corners of Harlem, New York. In the artist's own words, "Photography is a dissemination point for me to say that there is beauty in everyone."
Photography as therapy. A traumatic childhood is re-created with staged pictures, or other images "that could hold the emotional weight of memories that remained half shrouded."