Welcome to the Dollhouse: A Conversation with Photographer Dina Goldstein

“Snowy” by Dina Goldstein, 2008.

Dina Goldstein’s photography caught my attention about a year ago, when an article that imagined the lives of Disney princesses long after the “happily every after” popped up in my Facebook news feed.  For Dina, their afterlives are not pretty:  Cinderella is battling alcoholism, Belle goes under the knife and Snow White’s Prince Charming turns out to be a lazy, beer-guzzling lout.  This 2007 series entitled Fallen Princesses gained her international recognition not only as a fine art photographer, but as a cultural critic.  For this episode of MsRepresent: Behind the Face, a Fierce Woman, I spoke with Dina at her studio where she discussed her projects, Fallen Princesses, and her latest, In the Dollhouse.  Dina also shared her thoughts on impossible social standards and expectations imposed on women, inequality, and Barbie’s fall from grace.


Photo by Robert Kenney

“Tub & Toilet” by Dina Goldstein, 2011.

Dina is a photographer and Pop Surrealist with a background in editorial/documentary photography.  For Dina photography is intended not to produce an aesthetic that echoes current beauty standards, but to evoke and wrest feelings of shame, anger, shock and empathy from the observer so as to inspire insight into the human condition.

Dina’s experience as a documentary photographer complements her conceptual series — they inform each other technically and creatively.  From her more candid work, she has learned that spontaneity and a lack of control are sources of inspiration. This has inspired trust in her instincts to nurture the most fleeting of concepts. For example, Fallen Princesses series was born in 2007 out of deep personal pain, when she raged against the “happily ever after” motif we are spoon fed since childhood. The series created metaphor out of the myths of fairy tales, forcing the viewer to contemplate real life: cancer, failed dreams, obesity, war, pollution, ocean degradation, the extinction of indigenous cultures and the fallacy of chasing eternal youth.  By embracing the textures and colors created by Walt Disney, which built a multi-billion dollar empire exploiting these fairy tales, Fallen Princesses exposed the consumerism that has negated the morality of these ancient parables. It also begged the question, “how do we define the concept of ‘good’ and how do we live a ‘good’ life?”

Dina’s most recent work is a sequential narrative that plays out in a ten piece series, titled In The Dollhouse.  It too has sparked an international response.  This time she has taken on one of the most powerful symbols of Western culture: Barbie and Ken, the beloved and idealized American couple.  More than any other childhood construct, Barbie represents the concept that `Beauty´ is the apex trait and is necessary to attain power and happiness.  Her co-star Ken, who has been trapped in an imposed marriage for over three decades, discovers his authentic self and finally expresses his individuality.  Barbie´s fate is grim in Goldstein´s hands, as she breaks down and confronts her own value and fleeting relevance.

Dina’s work is exhibited in galleries and museums internationally.   She’s currently in production on her third large scale project, ‘Gods of Suburbia’, which is due to premier in the Fall 2014.  This year Dina celebrates her XX year in photography and is working on her debut published book, STORYOGRAPHY.

Dina lives in Vancouver with her filmmaker husband, Jonas Quastel, and her two young daughters, Jordan and Zoe.



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