As humans, we like to capture and collect things which are beautiful. This differs from one person to the next, I like skulls and tattoos amongst other things, so I have varying skull shaped items littered around my house, and a plentiful collection of tattoos. Some people collect porcelain frogs, or stamps or who knows what… the lists are endless, but to each of those collectors they see some beauty in the things they hoard. Before we realised that killing animals for sport was not the greatest of ideas, hunters would go out and kill beautiful specimens and have them stuffed to act as a trophy to hang on their walls.
Thomas Czarnecki pulls together many different themes within his photography to create a shock culture. In his collection “From enchantment to down” Czarnecki twists the fates of disney princesses to show a darkly depraved side to how their stories could have ended up.
The series shows most of the princesses on the floor or strewn across something in a sleep or death like state, their high heels scattered as if lost in some sort of attack, their faces covered by their hair to invite the imagination to make what it will of the situation. There are a few which differ, Alice in Wonderland sees a dead white rabbit and Alice with her face covered by her hair, tethered to a chair, in a cave like basement, and then there is Pocahontas…
Personally I haven’t watched the disney rendition of Pocahontas, but I can imagine that it is some contrived romantic interpretation of the real story, and actually the historical facts around Pocahontas, Captain John Smith and her later english husband, John Rolfe all seem a little contrived in some odd stockholm syndrome event.
Pocahontas was a native American noble woman of the Tsenacommacah based in Virginia during the 1600s. She was captured and held to ransom by the English during the Anglo-Indian hostilities, but while she was there she converted to Christianity and when the chance arose to be returned she decided to stay. She was said to have saved the life of Captain John Smith, but historians find this a dubious anecdotal story, but she did marry John Rolfe and had his son Thomas Rolfe.
In Czarneki’s interpretation of Pocahontas, we see the English hunter carrying his latest trophy in to his den. The wall lined with heads of antelope, we see a cheetah in the background of the ill lit room, as well as a warthog head, zebra skin and many other of the beautiful yet now declining in numbers, animals which hunters of the time so desired.
The lighting of the room, gives the feeling that the enjoyment is very much more in the hunt than the viewing of the trophies as they are crammed into a space, which is not really not really showing them to their full glory, each one captured in a moment, but then easily pushed to one side without guilt.
The audience’s mind is taken easily to the fate of Pocahontas’s body… will she yet up just a head on the wall, or maybe she will be a taxidermists dream as a full life model, to later be stuck in a corner as a reminder of the exciting hunt that was undertaken to get her.
On a more subliminal level, this could be viewed as one of those relationships where the man works very hard to get his desired woman, only to then not appreciate her full worth, leaving her as simply a trophy while she fades away in the background… we have all seen this happen!
While the whole series of “From enchantment to down” is shocking, I find this one most disturbing. I feel it is the combination of factors. Stuffed animals killed from the hunt, the lifeless body of Pocahontas, the dim lighting, the threat of the automatic rifle at the door… It all leads to the sinister.
If you want to see more of Czarnecki’s work, you can find it here
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