Claire Callow

Fairy Tales are Everywhere - All Around the Globe and in Every Shop

Once upon a time I was read to at night. Listening to stories while in this relaxed state allowed the vivid imagery to wash over me. Iconic characters and unusual events fed into my imagination, remaining in my memory. Many years later the stories resurfaced and different meanings came into sharp focus. From then on, I noticed them everywhere: throughout shops (with wildly varying price brackets) and down tiled hospital corridors. 

Studying anthropology, I learnt the theory of an underlying structure to all the world’s make-believe tales. No matter what the place or time in history, key themes recurred, as well as the details of colours and symbols. Of course, we all understand that the lens through which they are seen is culture-specific. 

Comparing the aesthetics of my childhood memories to the current contemporary incarnations, I was struck by the changing styles. They ranged from the faux-medieval and courtly fashion of 1970s and 1980s Ladybird books, to the highly stylised and perfected cartoon characters. The latter’s omnipresent merchandising points to a clear commodification of the princess phenomenon. Although the global nature of stories has been embraced by animated films, their diversity does not yet extend to body shapes or gender roles. Playing with opposing colour schemes, mechanical control panels and film posters, this series reflects on whether they will all live happily ever after, after all.