B.C. photographer's 'Fallen Princesses' generating new buzz online
In the world of Vancouver-based photographer Dina Goldstein, there are no guarantees for happy endings.
That point is starkly clear in a photo series for which she has become famous, called "Fallen Princesses."
The photos offer a twist on the idea of "happily ever after" and imagine what fairy-tale princesses do in the years after their princes sweep them off their feet.
Snow White, for example, finds herself with four children and a layabout prince of a husband. Cinderella drinks away heartbreak in a seedy bar, still dressed in her trademark taffeta. Little Red Riding Hood struggles with obesity after perhaps bringing a few too many treats while traversing through the forest to Grandmama’s house, while Pocahontas appears to be living alone with entirely too many cats.
The photos have been getting renewed attention in recent weeks from several international media outlets, but in fact, they've been around for a while. Goldstein shot the first one, of Cinderella, at Vancouver's Empress Hotel bar on Hastings St, back in 2007. She finished the series in 2009 and has been exhibiting them ever since.
For reasons even she cannot explain, the photos seem to find new life on the Web every so often.
"They have been around for a while, but it (the series) just keeps coming back on the Internet. And it seems it's back for a new set of eyes right now," she told CTV's Canada AM Friday.
The idea for the photos began when Goldstein's older daughter was about three years old and in the "princess phase" that many little girls seem to enter around that age. Goldstein -- who was born in Israel and doesn't remember being exposed to princess fairy tales -- says she began to question the whole "happily ever after" espoused by the stories her daughter loved.
"At the same time, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and I went into this really quite blue period. And I began to think: what if these princesses had to deal with real-life issues after the 'happily ever after' ending?" she says.
Goldstein's two daughters have seen their mother's photos plenty of times, but she isn't sure they quite grasp them yet.
"They recognize the characters, but of course they're not sophisticated enough to understand the whole message," she says.
Each photo is meant to touch on a different theme and evoke a different emotional response. One of the images portrays Jasmine, the princess from the Arabian-Nights-themed "Aladdin" movie, holding a machine gun while bombs explode in the desert behind her.
Goldstein says that picture has generated more controversy than she thinks it deserves.
"I think people interpret the pictures in different ways," she says. "Some people say I've depicted her as a terrorist, which is absolutely not true, of course. She is a strong warrior fighting for her country, very much like a lot of women are today, on the front lines."
While all the princesses derive from Disney movies, Goldstein says she never actually heard from the film company and insists she's not trying to take a jab at them with her photos.
"I'm not disparaging Disney. I'm just creating my own scenarios for these princesses, my own world, my own stories," she says.
Neither is she anti-fairy-tale, she insists. But she does think that the stories told today might oversimplify life and romance and really need to be balanced out with a liberal dose of good parenting.
"I think it's okay as long as kids have guidance from their parents and a little dose of reality and aren't growing up thinking everything is going to be perfect in their lives," she said.
"…It really depends on parents to help them along and help them realize that life doesn't always work with a happily-ever-after and a prince sweeping them away."