Young Penge photographer who mixes religious iconography with IT techniques sees success in artists’ competition

PUBLISHED: 15:28 20 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:31 20 February 2014

Jesus Christ Standby, the image of Phoebe's sister Charlotte which was displayed at the exhibition

Jesus Christ Standby, the image of Phoebe's sister Charlotte which was displayed at the exhibition


Daubing her models with body paint and mixing religious iconography with IT to create striking images is all in a day’s work for young photographer Phoebe Speer.

Phoebe's sister Charlotte as the Virgin Mary, an image which was displayed at the exhibitionPhoebe's sister Charlotte as the Virgin Mary, an image which was displayed at the exhibition

And her efforts have not gone unnoticed, as the 18-year-old’s work was shortlisted in the final 12 of a young artists’ competition, after judges had viewed 82 entries at an exhibition.

“I was really impressed, because I hadn’t really been able to practise photography as I’ve never really had the resources,” said Phoebe, of Lennard Road, Penge.

The Young London Artist Awards, which saw 150 pieces exhibited over two days, were held by Phoebe’s school, Sydenham and Forest Hill Sixth Form.

The judges – an artist, an illustrator and a gallery owner – selected two overall winners from the shortlist of 12.

Phoebe Speer, 18Phoebe Speer, 18

There was also a “People’s Prize,” with the entry receiving the most votes from the public on the opening night claiming that award.

Two of Phoebe’s photographs were displayed, both featuring her sister Charlotte, 22, as the subject.

The first, entitled Jesus Christ Standby, shows Charlotte with electrical wires on her head, an allusion to Jesus wearing a crown of thorns during his crucifixion.

The photograph also includes patches of pixelation.

Charlotte as the Virgin MaryCharlotte as the Virgin Mary

“The main intention was to adopt the concept that technology is all around us, just like religion,” Phoebe said.

“I also wanted to portray the idea that including an iconic, recognisable religious figure in my work can create controversy when taking the figure out of the original context and transforming it into an entirely new one.

“Therefore, I decided to focus on Jesus and his suffering to reflect the need for technology and show that I believe we rely too heavily on it.”

The second, Mother Mary Messenger (Virgin Mary Screaming), sees Charlotte depicted as the Virgin Mary, with the image adorned with QR codes to evoke technology.

Our LadyOur Lady

Phoebe said: “I have explored the representation of religion in the 19th-century and contrasted this with the contemporary portrayal of various sacred religious icons through technology.

“The QR codes represent the universal connection between individuals through technology. Likewise, religion is also universal and brings people together.

“Focusing on a mother’s undying love, heartache and suffering, while maintaining a glamorous, dignified yet vulnerable state of being, I’ve produced powerful imagery representing an inspiring, fearless empowerment.”

Phoebe took up painting to help her get into art college, where her ambitions lie.

But she has discovered that photography makes a rewarding string to her bow.

“I would never step away from painting,” she said. “But photography has allowed me to come out of my comfort zone and try something I didn’t know I was good at.”

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