Photographer shows dark origins of fairy tale classics


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The artist straightened the frame of “The Little Match Girl,” a photograph displaying a solemn-eyed child holding matches between her little fingers.

Shippensburg University interdisciplinary arts major Carrie D’Agostino created a series of photographs that depicts scenes from various fairy tales such as “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid.” Her works were shown at The Enchanted Photo Gallery held from April 25 to May 8 at the Lehman Library.

“It combined portraits and my love of literature and fairy tales,” she said.

One photograph features a girl wearing a bright red hood and flowing cape in a gloomy forest.
The description read: “She did not know what a wicked creature he was, and was not at all afraid of him. –Little Red Riding Hood.”

“I actually worked for Disney World two years ago, so in a way that kind of inspired it,” she said, “but I decided to take a darker route and do the originals. They’re definitely more creepy.”

Another shows a girl wearing a corset and white dress sitting on a bed of dead leaves. A man dressed in dull colored clothing with black boots had his face turned away from the camera. Axe in one hand, he had the other wrapped around the girl’s neck. It read: “And as she was so beautiful, the huntsman had pity on her. –Snow White.”

Many Disney movies were sweetened and suppressed versions of fairy tales that were published in the 1800s. They were written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen and were also
found in the Brothers Grimm collection.

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Photo by Robyn Woodley / The Slate

The raw, uncensored forms of these stories contain gruesome and ghastly happenings. For example, a few tidbits Disney chose to leave out of their version of “The Little Mermaid” were Ariel’s tongue being cut off as part of her deal to become human and her newly formed feet causing her to feel like she was walking on knives.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German scholars who collected over 200 spoken tales from various storytellers throughout Europe. They included stories that children worldwide can recite, such as “Little Snow-White” and “Cinderella.” Disney excluded details of death, dismemberment and cannibalism to keep it family friendly.

Many of the Grimm Brothers’ stories take place in the woods. The fantastical forests of Louisiana called to D’Agostino as best fit to capture the scenery.

“I always felt like the landscape there is really whimsical and fairy tale-like,” she said.
“If you remember the one with frog prints, and there’s all these cypress leaves and moss.”

Wielding a Nikon D3100 DSLR camera, she paced through the woods with specific images in her mind, and recreated her interpretations through her subjects. She never used the same person more than once, including herself.

D’Agostino obtained many of the puffy-sleeved dresses and corsets reminiscent of the time period from Etsy, a website where users sell homemade or vintage items.

“I want them to kind of remember when they were little reading the fairy tales,” she said, “and it kind of makes them jump off the page. They actually have a visual to put to it.”


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