Happily Ever After?

“In order to explain why nobody lives happily ever after, neither in fairy tales nor in real life, and why nobody should invest their time and energy believing in a “happily ever after” realm, I would like to make a few comments about Dina Goldstein’s provocative photographs that pierce the myth of happiness. This is not to say that we cannot be happy in our lives. Rather, I should like to suggest that the fairy-tale notion about happiness must be radically turned on its head if we are to glimpse the myths of happiness perpetuated by the canonical fairy tales and culture industry and to determine what happiness means.Anyone who has seen Dina Goldstein’s unusual photographs knows that she not only deflowers fairy tales with her tantalizing images, but she also “de-disneyfies” them.”
-Jack David Zipes is an American retired Professor of German history at the University of Minnesota, who has published and lectured on the subject of fairy tales their evolution, and their social and political role in civilizing processes.

“When Goldstein posted part of the series on the photography site JPG Mag in 2009, Fallen Princesses quickly went viral, suggesting folkloric tropes have near universal relevance – but not universal interpretation. Of the ten photographs that comprise the series, perhaps none has prompted so much controversy as Not-So-Little Red Riding Hood. On JPG Mag, the photo drew commenter ire for reading as an easy fat joke, and continued to provoke fiery discussion on feminist blogs. Women’s Glib criticized it as containing, [quote] “two glaringly problematic stereotypes…that fat people eat indiscriminately and ‘unhealthily’; and that being fat is the ultimate downfall.” [endquote.] Meanwhile, The Sister Project countered that the photo takes aim at, [quote] “the flawed society that we currently live in, where mainstream diets are made to poison consumers.”
-Li Cornfeld, Brooklyn Museum

“Within the Disney films, I expect to see that the princesses are significantly more appealing to the eye than any other female in the film and their ability to overcome obstacles with ease and facility. I think that these women will defeat their problems with the help of others and not independently. In comparison, I believe that Goldstein’s princesses will also be beautiful, but will address their personal troubles on their own. Also, I think that Goldstein’s princesses will encounter struggles placed by men with power instead of women.”
-Tim Smith Sociology, Lakehead University

“…one such artist is photographer Dina Goldstein. In her photographic series, Fallen Princesses. Specifically Goldstein critiques of notion that beauty is a consumable commodity in her photograph simply titled, “Belle,” (see Figure 2-4) depicts a middle-aged Belle, wearing her signature gold gown and gloves, undergoing a series of cosmetic procedures in an attempt to hold onto her fleeting beauty. Belle’s surgical wounds are still red, the stitches exposed, and her flesh bruised. “Belle” reflects what Goldstein terms “the fallacy of chasing eternal youth” (Dina). Exposing this quest for eternal youth is crucial to undermining the dominant culture’s use of the beauty myth as the last, best tool against women…Goldstein’s photograph effectively reveals the desperation of women who pursue elective cosmetic surgery. Such a revelation serves to break down the cultural assumption that it is natural and necessary to pursue beauty by any means possible. As a result, Goldstein’s image uses the tools of cultural indoctrination to challenge and subvert the social hegemony.”
-Amanda L. Anderson, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy

“These works have been recognized for their metaphorical and ironical messages, which transcends cultural borders and have sparked much conversation and accolades from academics, editors and bloggers around the world.”
-Roberta Staley, Art Now

The Fallen Princesses are works that place Fairy Tale characters in modern day scenarios. Each Princess is placed in an environment that articulates her conflict. The Disneyfied ‘…happily ever after’ is replaced with a realistic outcome and addresses current issues.

The project was inspired by my observation of three-year-old girls, who were developing an interest in Disney’s Fairy tales. As a new mother I have been able to get a close up look at the phenomenon of young girls fascinated with Princesses and their desire to dress up like them. The Disney versions almost always have sad beginning, with an overbearing female villain, and the end is predictably a happy one. The Prince usually saves the day and makes the victimized young beauty into a Princess.

As a young girl, growing up abroad, I was not exposed to Fairy tales. These new discoveries lead to my fascination with the origins of Fairy tales. I explored the original brothers Grimm’s stories and found that they have very dark and sometimes gruesome aspects, many of which were changed by Disney. I began to imagine Disney’s perfect Princesses juxtaposed with real issues that were affecting women around me, such as illness, addiction and self-image issues.

With limited funds and a lot of determination I began to assemble my series. First I had to find the right models who could portray these characters with
depth and emotion. Volunteers and skilled artists were recruited to help me shoot Cinderella as she sat in a dive bar in Vancouver’s infamous Hastings Street; Snow White in a domestic nightmare surrounded by unkempt children with a lazy out of work prince in the background. Rapunzel with Cancer in a hospital room, sitting beside her long blond wig. An overweight Red Ridding Hood is on her way to her grandma’s carting fast food in her basket.

The project was mostly completed in 2009 and exhibited for the first time at the Buschlen Mowatt Gallery in Vancouver, B.C.

I decided to share my work with a photography peer site called JPG.com. Days later I was inundated with media requests from all over the world.

My server was on overload. My site went down for several hours while I moved over to another that could support the overwhelming amount of visitors.

The series had gone viral even before I could finish my last piece ‘Pocahontas’. Hundreds of Blogs and Publications featured the Fallen Princesses series.

Online heated discussion began inspiring long conversations which included critic and controversy. I received hundreds of student interview requests with questions that invited me explore and expand on my themes.

Since then the Fallen Princesses have been worked into curriculums, included in text books and are often the focus of thesis and dissertations within gender and female studies. They are also studied in art and photography programs.

Traveling the world, The Series has been exhibited in public galleries and Museums in Poland, UK, India, Italy, France, US and Canada.

In 2011 I published a Fallen Princesses booklet with includes a collection of essays, published pieces, interviews, online conversations, project secrets and anecdotes about the project.

Today the Fallen Princesses are still enjoying much enthusiasm from the online community and have a large fan base on my Facebook page Dina Goldstein Art. I have also partnered up with commercial galleries that make the series available internationally, to collectors and curators.

fallenprincesses.com was built in 2009. The site files were lost to me for a long time. I am so pleased that fallenprincesses.com has finally been updated. Enjoy the newly added production and exhibition pictures, essays, letters and published works.

‘Fallen Princesses’ is the most authentic and complicated project that I’ve taken on creativity. It is the first time as an artist that I am venturing to examine the darker side of my own state of mind. As a mother of a young girl I feel that it is important to responsibly discuss the concept of “… happily ever after”, and to examine issues that affect women and our society today.’