Vee Speers' Birthday Party portraits evoke the formality of a bygone era. Inspired by watching her own young children interact in interior spaces, she developed a series of single portraits of children in costume. She began shooting in black and white, and soon added layers of color digitally. Her close-in style recalls strong cinematic influences of Peter Greenaway's psychological set pieces and exquisite costuming. In Speers' case, she elicits a costume for each child, inspired by the character of each face she selects. The protagonists of her birthday party are strangely still, as children hold props and brooding looks fixed in timeless, airless atmosphere. Evoking the 19th century of daguerreotype photography, the exquisite colored details invite slow scrutiny of the personality within each small form. The learned and the untutored exist side by side in these images, mirroring the development of children in structured society. These images bring the question of Nuture versus Nature to a new level, exploring as they do how children cope with leaving innocence behind for self-knowledge.

Vee Speers’ work of the series is published in her new book titled The Birthday Party.