Myths, Legends and Fairytales
Project info

Janelle Pietrzak’s new and ongoing self-portrait project Myths, Legends and Fairytales, explores the role of women, femininity and storytelling through casting herself in original and or altered fables.

Janelle Pietrzak’s new and ongoing self-portrait project Myths, Legends and Fairytales, explores the role of women, femininity and storytelling through casting herself in original and or altered fables. The tales she presents are either entirely unique or subversively reimagine stories she heard as a child. Long gone are the damsels in distress. Janelle’s characters are intelligent, self-possessed, and utterly independent. These women do not usurp their power from other females, as do the jealous queens, wicked witches and evil stepmothers of fairytales past. Nor are they helpless heroines waiting to be saved by Prince Charming. This is not to say that all Janelle’s characters lead charmed lives, they make mistakes and they misjudge situations, but ultimately these women are in charge of their own destinies. They have their own heroine’s tale to fulfill, and they walk this road of their own accord.

Through role-playing these characters, Janelle has been able to explore her own identity as a woman who grew up with the traditional Disney princesses and other similar feminine stereotypes. No longer willing to accept the unfulfilling stories of the past, her characters have new and unique tales to tell. The fresh archetypes Janelle presents in her images, are strong, fearless, women who often hold positions of great responsibility. They are brave leaders, who have accepted important duties including attending the world’s sorrows, being in control of the weather, or accountable for the key to the universe. Sometimes they just face their own fears, like Alice, who returns to live in Wonderland, or the Captive who must think quickly lest she end up like Gulliver. Similarly, the character of The Lover, instead of bargaining away her voice like the Little Mermaid, must choose her own destiny and decide for herself what price she is willing to pay for love. A few of the characters possess magical powers, including The Changeling, a mysterious creature deeply attuned to the seasons, and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice who diligently practices her craft, unlike either Goethe’s Der Zauberling or the more well known Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. These are the role models Janelle wishes she had grown up with, even The Fairy Catcher, has switched roles from fairy princess to huntress. Instead of petty spiteful women and helpless girls needing rescue, these are true heroines.

Created over the summer of 2014, Janelle photographed most of this self-portrait series while camping alone in America’s National Parks. These images are a departure from her previous work with long exposure imagery. This new series involves complex Photoshop compositing. Through this technique, Janelle is able to push the photographic medium and accomplish new levels of creative actualization by constructing worlds that are both entirely plausible, as well as beautifully fantastic.