I always wondered what happened to the heroines of Fairy Tales: after the doors closed on the wedding reception, (it always ended with a wedding) after the king and the fairly godmother and the singing brooms left … how did things turn out for them? Were they accepted by the evil stepmother eventually. Did they celebrate the holidays together?
If their stories bear any relation to the rest of ours … real life and true nature got in the way. Nothing was the way it was told. And they’re making recovery plans.
For Dina Goldstein real life presented provoked the same question. At the same time as her daughter was first becoming interested in princesses, Goldstein’s mother was diagnosed with cancer: “The two events collided and made me wonder what a princess would look like if she had to battle a disease, struggle financially or deal with aging. I began to imagine what could happen to the princesses later in life and after the happily ever after. Naturally they would have to deal with challenges that all modern women face.”
As a response to her Mother’s cancer diagnosis – Dina’s first idea was to depict a modern Rapunzel, who had lost all her precious hair to chemotherapy. The resultant image shows Rapunzel looking forlorn as she sits on a hospital bed, clutching her long blond locks that have been fashioned into a wig.
In the photo series that followed, Fallen Princesses, Goldman decided to explore the Princesses lives – but in the context of modern topical issues: “Failed dreams, pollution and ocean degradation, war, obesity, the extinction of indigenous cultures, cancer and the fallacy of chasing eternal youth.”
So, Cinderella sits alone in a dingy bar, shot glass in hand: as a group of men look silently on. Snow White looks helplessly at the camera as she clutches two crying children. A third tugging at her dress. Prince Charming slumps behind her focused only on the television and his beer. In Disney’s version: Pocahontas finds love with British settler John Smith. But Goldstein imagines a life of waiting – picturing her alone in dark room, surrounded by dozens of cats.
A telling comment on the obesity epidemic in the US and Canada has the not-so-Little Red Riding Hood hiding out in the woods, sipping a super sized slurpee and cradling a basket full of fast food. A surgically enhanced Belle from Beauty and the Beast is nipped and tucked by cosmetic surgeons. And Sleeping Beauty never wakes up – leaving her now-wrinkled Prince to face life in an old age home.
Portraits of lost hope.
Goldstein tackles controversial issues too – The Princess and the Pea is pictured sitting atop a stack of mattresses in a Vancouver landfill. Ariel is trapped in an aquarium – a result of pollution. And Aladin’s love interest, Jasmine, is depicted as a modern warrior – toting a huge gun through a war zone. An image which had critics accusing the photographer of ‘typically portraying a Middle Eastern Princess as a terrorist”
But that wasn’t Goldstein’s intent: “She is a warrior, fighting on the front lines, just as so many women are today in Iraq,’ she explains. “I am a fierce realist so I wanted the princesses to be in real life situations with problems of their own.”
I showed these pictures to my nieces. Hannah laughed and shrugged – “life isn’t really like that”, she said. Riley looked for a while and then asked: “Can we go see Ariel in the Aquarium?”. Then they turned back to the TV.