Dina is a photographer and Pop Surrealist with a background in editorial and 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 as to inspire insight into the human condition. Dina independently produces large scale tableau photographic series that are philosophical, satirical, technical and visually stunning. To learn more about Dina check out the interview below and visit her website www.dinagoldstein.com.
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
An artist, mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend, collaborator- subversive and tends to live life against the grain.
Whom do you look up to?
Today I am inspired by all sorts of artists and free thinkers who are not held back and speak their minds.
I look up to other people who share personal experiences in order to make a real difference in the world. Those who are working around the world to promote gender equality. Those who have come from modest backgrounds and have made something of themselves. People who balance their work life, and dedicate themselves equally to their family and community.
Are there any personalities that have contributed to your successful career path?
I would credit my very supportive family and especially my husband Jonas, who has guided me professionally and personally. Also the art directors, art dealers and collectors that have believed in my vision and continue to encourage my art practice.
How did your photographic career start?
In 2013 I celebrated 20 years in photography with a retrospective exhibition titled “XX”. In my early twenties I travelled to dangerous and war torn areas. I wanted to be a NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC or LIFE photographer. After some time and considerable contemplation I discovered that this life involved a solitude and constant relocation that was not suited for my personality. I returned home, met my husband Jonas and got married. I got a job as staff photographer on a weekly newspaper and began concentrating on editorial portraiture . I went on to photograph spreads for every Canadian publication and was assigned work from American and European newspaper and magazines. Simultaneously I would shoot commercial projects with advertising agencies in Vancouver and collaborated with art directors abroad. I worked many weekends and evenings covering events. I also had several personal projects on the go. I spent years photographing gamblers and regulars at the racetrack in Vancouver, I exhibited Trackrecord in the iconic Pendulum building. My process was the portraiture expressed through the study of people within various social organizations. I titled my method Photoanthropology, I photographed non stop in my twenties and early thirties. My success in the commercial realm afforded me to experiment with my own ideas and create personal work. At 35 I became a mother and began to explore subjects and concepts that interested me.
The shift from commercial to fine art happened in 2007 when I began to work on Fallen Princesses. The series was inspired by my daughter Jordan at age 3, her discovery of Disney Princesses while at the same time my mother was confronting Breast Cancer. I began to compose the concepts and photograph each pieces with particular attention to makeup, costume and location. It took me over two years to complete the Fallen Princesses series. I continued to work throughout my pregnant with my second daughter Zoe. Just after giving birth I had my first solo exhibition in 2009.
Fallen Princesses creates metaphor out of the myths of fairy tales, forcing the viewer to contemplate real life: failed dreams, obesity, addiction, obesity, Cancer, the extinction of indigenous culture pollution, war 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?”
My second large scale project was more ambitious than anything that I had created in the past and was to be shot all on a constructed set. In The Dollhouse, 2012 – a ten piece sequential narrative that plays out in a life sized dollhouse and a video that documents the making of process.
This effort required a sizable crew that involved a makeup team, costumers, set builders, decorators, furniture refurbishing, assistants and a digital team I was working with a tiny budget so my concern was finding talented people to participate. Luckily Fallen Princesses was a great success online and had gone ‘Viral’ in 2009. The project was widely published and created much conversation.
This exposure helped with recruiting a crew that had experience in production, photography and all elements of set building, and were willing to work for credit.
In The Dollhouse:
This time, I have taken on one of the most powerful symbols of Western culture: Barbie, the idealized woman. More than any other childhood construct, Barbie represents the concept that ‘Beauty is Power’ and necessary to attain happiness. However, when Ken, Barbie’s handsome but emasculated partner, expresses his individuality and finds his authenticity, the value of beauty as an apex trait is exposed as cheap and plastic as the dolls themselves. I premiered the Dollhouse in 2012 and this series too found an international audience and garnished discussions about current beauty standards, the complexity of marriage and importance of authenticity. I began to receive invitations to show and talk about my work at photo and art festivals.
In 2012 I was awarded the Arte Laguna prize and travelled to India on a residency.
In 2013 I opened my studio XX, located in Vancouver. I decided to focus completely on producing my independent large scale projects and specifically my next series, Gods Of Suburbia. I received my first Canada Council grant to help support this massive initiative.
This series, more complex and contemplative, has taken me two years to complete.
With Gods I have taken a personal and professional leap. It is a critical exploration of established and fringe religions.
Gods of Suburbia offers an iconoclastic interpretation of how ancient belief systems fit with technology, science and secularism, the three main pillars of modernity.
I am very pleased that my work is subject to many written academic essays, dissertations, and mentioned in various literature. The projects are studied and taught in art schools, photography programs, Gender and feminist courses.
In 2014 I was awarded the Prix Virginia overall prize and was invited to Paris to show my work in a solo exhibition. This year I will show in Columbia, Taiwan and Cannes, France. You can see the complete XX exhibition on my web site www.dinagoldstein.com/xx-retrospective.
What was your favourite project and why?
Picking a favorite project is like picking a favorite child. Each work is a reflection on my outlook at the time of creation. Fallen Princesses remains very important in my life and seems to have touched many people as it looks at different elements of the human condition; as I still get much interest from the press, personal emails, student project requests and exhibition proposals.
How do you define creativity?
Creativity exists in the natural world and within everyone, but not all people discover and nurture it. It’s a natural desire to make something out of nothing, to freely express and release.
If you had one advice for someone seeking to live a creative life, what would you tell him?
It’s about nurturing inspiration and staying authentic. If your art comes from a real place people will relate. My ideas are quite instinctual and come from a subconcious space that I stay open to. It is also important for the body of work to consistantly grow. Art is a practice and the most fleeting of thoughts can be fruitful.
Do you have a favourite quote that describes what you truly believe in?
Success is part attitude, part circumstance, part hard work, part perserverence.
Real success is not what you think.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career as a photographer?
Photographing in India was heartbreaking at times. The poverty that drives whole families to live on the streets. The living conditions of those in the slums..these are hard things to look at when you are a mother.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at 21?
I am glad that I was naïve at 21, life was more simple than. As you mature the world becomes more complex. I’m glad that I had that time to experiment without mental limitations.
Is there anything for which you would be ready to give up your passion of photography?
Storytelling has always been central in all of my work past and present and
Photography as an art form transcends cultural borders, and has the ability for quick communication. Within one frame or a series I attempt to create a narrative that relays as much information as a book or movie. This is always my medium, my passion and my challenge. Sometimes the message is delivered quickly and makes an instant impression and other times the image requires further research and deeper involvement. I am thrilled that my visual narratives have been recognized for their ‘metaphorical and ironical messages’ and in turn has sparked much conversation and written commentary from academics, editors and bloggers around the world. The work welcomes interpretation and discussion.
All images © Dina Goldstein