Courtship. A Photographic Investigation of Romantic Engagement

Master's Thesis, 2011

73 Pages, Grade: Masters of Design with Merit


Table of contents

Title Page


Masters In Design by Project Proposal

Rationale and context for the research

Timeline/ Outcomes

Selected Bibliography



List of Figures


Section one: Research and development

Chapter 1: Women wanting to be desired

Chapter 2: Understanding gender identity and persona

Chapter 3: Confusing fantasy and reality in character and in space

Section two: Processing findings

Chapter 4 : Males in courtship and the plight of love

Chapter 5: Findings

Final Works


List of Figures

Figure 1. Lydia Cook , Red (2009)

Figure 2. Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column (1944)

Figure 3. Lydia Cook, Pricked (2010)

Figure 4. Lydia Cook, Sea Maiden (2010)

Figure 5. Lydia Cook, Beastly Beauty (2009)

Figure 6. Lydia Cook, Little Snow White (2009)

Figure 7. Lydia Cook, Frog (2009)

Figure 8. Lydia Cook, Rapunzel (2010)

Figure 9. Lydia Cook , Rose-Red (2010)

Figure 10. Lydia Cook, The Little Glass Slipper (2010)

Figure 11. Lydia Cook , Chest Plate (2010)

Figure 12. Lydia Cook , Red Lace (2010)

Figure 13. Cindy Sherman, Untitled # 196, (1989)

Figure 14. Lydia Cook, Biker (2010)

Figure 15. Neil Gaiman, MirrorMask (2005) , (Screen shot)

Figure 16. Lydia Cook, Warped (2010)

Figure 17. Salvador Dali, Figure at a Window (1925)

Figure 18. Abelardo Morell , The Loveliest Garden You Ever Saw (1998)

Figure 19.Lydia Cook, Mimicking (2010)

Figure 20 . George Condo, The Internal Rage of Rodrigo (2008)

Figure 21. Lydia Cook, Bunny Mask (2010)

Figure 22. Lydia Cook, Black hat (2010)

Figure 23. Lydia Cook , Bathing (2010)

Figure 24. Lydia Cook, Shaving Wound (2010)

Figure 25. Lydia Cook, Game (2010)

Figure 26. Lydia Cook, Charming (2010)

Figure 27. Frida Kahlo, The Two Fridas (1939)

Figure 28. Lydia Cook, Step Brothers (2010)

Figure 29. Lydia Cook, Ironing (2010)

Figure 30. Lydia Cook, Gold (2010)

Figure 31. Karen Knorr, Gentlemen series (1981-1983)

Figure 32. Lydia Cook, Eyes of Obol (2010)

Figure 33. Lydia Cook , Serenading (2010)

Figure 34. Angela Carter, The Company of Wolves (1984), (Screen shot)

Figure 35. Lydia Cook, Wolf Prince (2010)

Figure 36. Lydia Cook, Persephone Seeds (2010)

Figure 37. Lydia Cook, Blue Beach (2011)

Figure 38. Lydia Cook, Axe (2011)


The research title of my project is: Courtship: A photographic investigation of romantic engagement.

The research question is concerned with the evolution of romantic courtship with reference to the influence of fairytale conventions. The project aims to produce a photographic series and exegesis, which explore the constructs embodied in traditional fairytales in the context of social and aesthetic behaviours in courtship.

The project started with an investigation of both academic references and contemporary artists. My Initial experimentation created works that communicated ideas surrounding themes such as fairytales, romance and gender confusion.

I became interested in finding connections between academic and creative concepts such as the aesthetics of gender identity and the psychology of courtship and fairytales. By engaging in a creative process and exploring references that influenced the works, I was able to question and explore these themes through performing roles of both genders within the creation of characters. This exegesis essentially tracks my creative process, research and the questions and challenges I have faced along the way.

Masters In Design by Project Proposal

Title of the research project:

Courtship: A photographic investigation of romantic engagement.

Research Question:

How is contemporary romantic courtship evolving with reference to the influence of fairy tale convention?

Aim of the project:

The project will result in a photographic series with an exegesis, which aims to investigate social constructs embodied in the tradition of fairytales in the context of contemporary social and aesthetic behaviours found in courtship.


1) Investigate social behaviour in contemporary romantic courtship.
2) Ascertain the potential influence of fairytale mythology in contemporary courtship.
3) Produce a series of photographs exploring social constructs embodied in the mythology of fairytales in the context of contemporary courtship.


1) Conduct a literature search on social behaviour in everyday romantic courtship.
2) Conduct a literature search of courtship ritual in fairytale mythology.
3) Utilise this research in the development of the photographic series.
4) Incorporate findings from photographic practice in conjunction with the exegesis.


1) Literature search and annotated bibliography.
2) Survey of relevant contemporary art in this area.
3) Informed use of location, props, clothing and photographic construction.

Rationale and context for the research:

The research undertaken into traditional fairytales is contextualised with tales stemming from the western tradition of folklore. It is assumed that gender stereotypes are at work within the traditional tales explored. It is through the exploration of these stereotypes that the research unfolds within the realms of questioning this gendered behavior. This is then underpinned by further exploring the generic dynamics at play within courtship.

Questioning these stereotypes is undertaken through referencing contemporary theories on gender such as Mimi Schippers’s idea of “Gender Maneuvering” in her publication entitled Rockin’ Out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering in Alternative Hard Rock which gives important insights into gender roles in romantic courtship. Schippers (2002), defines gender maneuvering as; “If however, we decided to buck the rules and refuse to follow the expectations for femininity and masculinity in a given setting, we could possibly disrupt the relationship between masculinity and femininity. If done collectively, a group of people could possibly set a new course for gender structuration. This is what I call gender maneuvering” (Schippers, 2002, p xii).

This research project intends to use these ideas and other contemporary theories to explore and challenge traditional notions of courtship and roles. The project intends to investigate the changes occurring within courtship behaviour in terms of social dynamics and the power shifts within gender.


October/November 2008

Complete candidate workshop (11/11/2008).

January/February 2009

Develop annotated bibliography.

Complete research proposal.

April/May/June 2009

Submit a formal proposal to the Masters of Design Proposal Committee to officially enter the Master’s program on the 18th of May.

Plot structure for exegesis.

July/August 2009

Upload Endnote software and input references.

Feed all texts supervisor.

Produce photographic works at completion level to get feedback in workshop.

September/October 2009

Complete Workshop one (25/11/2009).

November 2009

Complete most of the annotated bibliography.

January/February 2010

Produce photographic works at completion level to get feedback in workshop.

March/April 2010

Complete Workshop two (30/4/2010).

May/June 2010

Work on exegesis.

Work on new images.

July/August 2010

Finalise exegesis introduction.

Finish the first draft of the exegesis.

September 2010

Edit images.

Select images to be framed.

October 2010

Complete annotated bibliography.

Keep refining exegesis.

November 2010

Exhibition in Snow-White Masters Grad show of selected images (22/11/2010 till 27/11/2010).

February/March 2011

Produce photographic works at completion level to get feedback in workshop.

Complete Third Workshop (24/3/2011).

Finalise dates and location for exhibition.

April/May/June 2011

Final photography of images

Final edit of images.

Carry out final draft of exegesis.

July/August 2011

Submit exegesis.

Draft Examination Presentation.

September/October 2011

Final edited images to the printers.

Organise exhibition opening.

Finalise Examination Presentation.

November 2011

Exhibition (3/11/2011 to 20/11/2011).



1) To critically reflect, analyse, observe and review the concepts of how social dynamics in romantic courtship take place in society.
2) To produce a series of photographic works which raise questions about behaviour within romantic courtship in society.
3) To stage a solo exhibition of the work.
4) To produce an exegesis on the work and its relationship to contemporary courtship and traditional fairytales.

Selected Bibliography:

Aslaksen, M. J. (2006). Middle class music in suburban nowhere land: Emo and the performance of masculinity.

Bernheimer, K. (1998). Mirror, Mirror on The Wall: Women Writers Explore their Favorite Fairy Tales New York: Anchor Books.

Bettelheim, B. (1976). The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Random House.

Ewing, W. A. (1999). Love and Desire: Thames and Hudson.

Gray, J. (1993). Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships: Harper Collins.

Hawkins, J. (2003). Sex and the City and Third Wave Feminism: Defining Feminisms in Popular Culture. Unpublished Women Studies, University of Washington, Washington.

Kismaric, S., & Respini, E. (2004). Fashioning Fiction In Photography Since 1990. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Krentz, J. A. (1992). Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lohmann, J. ( 2006). Beauty and the Beast: Themes in Romance Novels. University of North Carolina, North Carolina.

Manusov, V., & Harvey, H. J. (2001). Attribution, Communication Behavior, and Close Relationships. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mills, E., & Cochrane, K. (2005). Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs: 100 Years of the Best Journalism by Women. London: Constable.

Mirzoeff, N. (1999). An Introduction to Visual Culture. London: Routledge.

Paglia, C. (1991). Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. London: Penguin.

Schippers, M. (2002). Rockin’ Out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering in Alternative Hard Rock: Rutgers University Press.

Sherman, C., Cruz, A., Smith, E. A. T., & Jones, A. (1997). Cindy Sherman: Retrospective. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Townsend, J. M. (1998). What Women Want--What Men Want: Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently. New York: Oxford University Press.


A number of people have supported me in the creation of this thesis. I specifically would like to thank my Principal Supervisor Marcus Williams who has been a constant source of inspiration, encouragement and support. Additionally I would like to thank Associate Supervisors Cassandra Barnett and Marie Shannon for their expertise and generous input. I would also like to thank Brian Russell for all his help and give special thanks go to my parents Douglas and Jennifer Turner, my sister Anna Turner and my Husband Gair Cook for their endless loving support. Without their patience and help the project would not have been completed.


This project, Courtship: A photographic investigation of romantic engagement, asks questions about the way contemporary romantic courtship is evolving with reference to fairy tale conventions.

The project results in a photographic series with an exegesis. This work investigates social constructs embodied in the tradition of fairy tales within the context of contemporary social and aesthetic behaviours found in courtship.

Each section of this exegesis follows a theme, which addresses aspects of fairy tales and their parallels with contemporary courtship. Each theme culminates in a series of photographic images that show the creative journey undertaken and facilitates the development of the eight final images.

This research in essence aims to challenge people’s notions around courtship.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Albert Einstein as cited in Gadd (2007, p.1).

Section one:Research and Development

Chapter one: Women wanting to be desired

The project started with the investigation of themes found in fairy tales and in particular the female characters portrayed within these tales.

This initiated a creative process involving the exploration of how to depict characters in a way that challenged conceptions of courtship. In addition to creating images, research into the tales was undertaken. The creative process started with experimentation in developing a cast of female characters.

The fairy tales of The Brothers Grimm form the basis of my research enabling me to explore the conceptual framework that operates within traditional fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm’s work takes the reader on a journey through dark recesses of the human heart and social morality. The stories often begin with lifelike situations that evolve into the fantastic and magical, as the protagonist is challenged by events and other characters along the way. It is through these storylines that messages surrounding moral consciousness are conveyed to the audience. An example of this is the tale of Little Snow White, more commonly known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In this tale The Brothers Grimm create a storyline around Snow White’s evil stepmother engaging in horrid acts to kill her . The Brothers Grimm reveal the consequences of bad behaviour by using the stepmother’s actions as an example, the following extract from the tale describes her punishment:

Just then a pair of red-hot iron shoes were brought in with a pair of tongs and set before her, and these she was forced to put on and to dance in til she fell down dead (Grimm, 1947, p. 25).

In addition, candour can be seen in the way that the characters do not necessarily always gain what they desire in life. This candour is illustrated in the tale of The Little Glass Slipper, more commonly known as Cinderella. In this tale Cinderella’s stepsister so desperately wants to be with the Prince that she cuts her foot to fit the glass slipper and win his approval. However her attempts to win the Prince’s approval fail and he inevitably courts Cinderella. Part of the power of these tales lies in the Brothers Grimm’s ability to intertwine narrative ideas around moral messages, thus connecting fantasy and real life dilemmas.

Jack Zipes’ work helped clarify the direction from which the research approached fairy tales and their relationship to courtship. Zipes’ comments on links between traditional tales and the ideas these tales convey regarding courtship.

Readin g Zipes’ extracts in the Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales motivated me to look deeper into tales and to think about the use of traditional tales as a reference for the research undertaken as he raises some significant questions regarding how fairy tales operate and influence people:

What is it that endows fairy tales with such enchantment? Where do these tales come from? Why do they have such a grip on us? Why do we seem to always need them? We want to know more about ourselves by knowing something more about fairy tales. We want to fathom their mysterious hold on us (Zipes, 2000, p. XV).

Zipes’ work helped in establishing the parameters involved in the definition of fairy tales and how such a creative and openly interpreted subject matter could be approached in the research. As Zipes suggests, fairy tales do not fit one particular genre, rather, tales boast a varied and case-by-case identity:

There is no such thing as the fairytale; however, there are hundreds of thousands of fairytales. And these fairytales have been defined in so many different ways that it boggles the mind to think that they can be categorized as a genre (Zipes, 2000, p. XV).

Zipes’ ideas made it clear to me that traditional and popular fairy tales should form the basis and context for the research. It is through this research that a thread between fairy tales and subliminal messages was unraveled.

Marketing and business acceleration strategist Dave Lakhani helped me understand this concept as he describes subliminal messages as: “’Subliminal’ can mean ‘invisible’ or ‘covert’ but it can also mean…what it means… stimuli that you are not aware of.” (Lakhani, 2008, p.x). In relation to what is found in fairy tales, subliminal messages are the stimulation of ideas that are delivered on a subconscious level. It is this stimulation on a subconscious level that makes messages found in fairy tales easily digestible to a young audience.

A leading researcher in this field is child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim. Academic Maria Tatar, states the following regarding Bettelheim’s research in this field:

“In The Uses of Enchantment, Bettelheim argued that fairy tales have a powerful therapeutic value, teaching children that “a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable.” “If one does not shy away,” Bettelheim added with great optimism,” but steadfastly meeting unexpected and often unjust hardship, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious” (Tatar: 2002: p. xiii-xiv).

It is these sorts of subliminal messages that enable tales to communicate life lessons to children. Maria Tatar also comments on how fairy tales deliver subliminal messages and believes that tales such as Cinderella deliver messages about courtship:

fairytales can provide readers and listeners with counsel about how to manage anxieties that run particularly deep. How many times do we invoke “Cinderella” when it comes to thinking about courtship, marriage and romance? (Tatar: 2004: p. xlvii).

Subliminal messages found in fairy tales have been utilised as an educational tool by Psychologists to help children understand the challenges they will face both in their childhood and adult life; “Over the past decades child psychologists have mobilised fairytales as powerful therapeutic vehicles for helping children and adults solve their problems by meditating on the dramas staged in them.” (Tatar: 2002, p. xiii-xiv).These ideas are taken on board by children and help mould the way in which they view courtship later in their adult life. Tatar describes this link between tales and ideas around courtship in reference to Beauty and the Beast; “how frequently do we frame marriages as variations on “Beauty and the Beast”? (Tatar: 2004, p. xlvii) It is the impact of subliminal messages delivered within tales that generates the re-telling of these stories throughout time and the reinvention and illustration of these stories through art. Tatar states: “That writers, film makers and artists constantly recycle these stories reveals the degree to which they are perpetually in the back of our collective minds.” The ideas communicated through subliminal messages and their relationship to ideas around courtship led me to research tales that generated these kinds of messages for young girls.

Examples such as Little Glass Slipper and Little Snow White acted as valuable case studies for thinking about the initial stages of courtship communicated within tales. The lead female characters in these stories are depicted as being both in distressing situations and in need of assistance, allowing the male characters to fulfil the role of saviour. This theme occurs in a number of traditional tales and acts as an important trigger for the communication of courtship dynamics as it facilitates the damsel in distress[1]. scenario, as the female has to rely on the male for her survival. It also enables the male to have a purpose within the narrative. I looked at incorporating this into the formation of my characters. The character Red (2009) (Figure 1) represents a call of distress. This image illustrates a lone female with a cut foot sitting on her bed and signifies the emotions and feelings gained when thinking about a damsel in distress.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1. Lydia Cook , Red (2009)

The damsel in distress concept is also the precursor for the subject of marriage, another theme dealt with in the Grimm Brothers’ narratives. It is the connection between these preliminary stages of interaction and the end result of marriage that helps entice young girls into the storyline. It gives young girls the opportunity to play out their own fantasies about marriage through the characters. This link between the idea of marriage, fairy tales and the implications for young girls is explored by Zipes. Zipes suggests that fairy tales advocate courtship as the most exciting aspect of life, with marriage being the culmination and therefore end of a young girl’s romantic life.

…in effect, these stories focus upon courtship, which is magnified into the most important and exciting part of a girls life, brief though courtship is, because it is the part of her life in which she most counts as a person herself (Zipes, 1986, p. 199).

Zipes also deconstructs these tales in relation to their impact upon adult courtship, and the way fairy tales have embedded certain ideals around being courted, even though these expectations can be very different from reality.

After marriage she ceases to be wooed, her consent is no longer sought, she derives her status from her husband and her personal identity is effectively snuffed out. When fairytales show courtship as exciting and conclude with marriage and the vague statement that ‘they lived happily ever after’, children may develop a deep-seated desire always to be courted since marriage is literally the end of the story (Zipes, 1986, p.199-200).

Zipes goes as far as to say that tales such as those composed by The Brothers Grimm act as “training manuals” (Zipes, 1986, p.200) for girls, regarding the way they should act in courtship. The idea of these tales acting as training manuals for young girls is evidenced in the way in which female characters such as Little Snow White and Cinderella conduct themselves when interacting with males:

The editing of female speech in fairytales by male authors/transcribers shows in a very real way how tales have been used as a means of training women how to behave in a socially (i.e. patriarchally) acceptable fashion (Slatter, 2006, p.162).

The influence that these tales hold in regard to their ‘training’ of young girls in courtship raises a number of ideas. In particular, ‘training’ suggests that expecting to live happily ever after and ‘be saved’ by a male character is possible in a real life situation as described by Slatter in these tales:

The voice of the mother was used to enforce ideas of sanctioned behavior – girls are quiet, pretty, submissive and there to be rescued (Slatter, 2006, p.163).

These ideas around courtship are cultivated in the minds of the impressionable young, many years before they are relevant.

My works endevor to challenge the concepts and key themes of fairy tales that form the basis of psychological engagement with young girls, or as Zipes has suggested, the tale’s ability to act as a training manual for girls. These concepts are both challenged and manipulated in order to create a new set of narratives. Such narratives include the ideas of breaking down the façade of living happily ever after. I decided to explore the idea of portraying characters in affluent surroundings yet displaying wounds, imperfections, or loneliness, which question the portrayal of the character living happily ever after within my images.

The idea of the female character experiencing distress and harm is evident in almost all of the Grimm’s tales. This not only relates to the idea of creating a damsel in distress but in particular employs physical harm and adversity in order to develop the character’s narrative. Examples of this can be seen in the tale of Little Snow White who is poisoned and the tale of Briar Rose, more commonly known as Sleeping Beauty, who pricks her finger. For me this aspect of the Grimm’s tales opened up important ideas regarding courtship as a process, which involves hurt or injured characters; creating a link to the pain caused by rejection in courtship. Here I was trying to link these two ideas and transpose the idea of rejection into physical form.

A significant artist in terms of the portrayal of physical harm is the painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), whose work has guided me when employing this concept. Kahlo utilises this concept in a stylised manner as can be seen in works such as The Broken Column (Figure 2) which illustrates nails penetrating skin and detailed open wounds revealing flesh, blood and bone.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2. Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column (1944)

The presence of harm evokes empathy and facilitates interaction with and reflection upon Kahlo’s own experiences, as explained by Taylor:

Rendered in vivid colors and realistic detail, Kahlo's jewel-like paintings are filled with complex symbolism, often relating to specific incidents in her life. The Broken Column (1944) (Figure 2) expresses her struggles with illness throughout her life (Taylor, 2008).

I identified a link between Kahlo’s work and the explorations of physical harm to reflect significant incidents in a character’s life within the Brothers Grimm work. Physical harm can be seen in my works through the adoption of cuts, blood, pricked fingers and crutches. These imply harm and subtly suggest a possible metaphor for emotional wounds that the characters may also have sustained.

An important reference regarding the courtship mechanisms revealed within the Brothers Grimm’s tales is the idea explored by American writer and psychotherapist Colette Dowling in her work the Cinderella Complex: Woman’s Hidden Fear of Independence. This work reference the way in which women interact within the roles they assume :

Women today are caught in the crossfire between old and radically new social ideas, but the truth is, we cannot fall back on the old ‘role’[2] any more. It’s not functional; it’s not a true option. We may think it is; we may want it to be; but it isn’t. The prince has vanished. The cave man has grown smaller and weaker. In fact, in terms of what is required for survival in the modern world, he is really no stronger, or smarter, or more courageous than we are. He is, however, more experienced (Dowling, 1982, p. 23-24).

Dowling’s work suggests a connection between traditional and contemporary ideas surrounding how women should function in courtship. Some of the images I have created display characters engaging in mundane, domestic tasks such as preparing a meal, while other characters pose provocatively in seductive settings. These parallels are implied in order to provoke dialogue between traditional and contemporary women’s roles. However, Dowling (1982) does not relate these ideas to cultural expectations, such as the embodiment of codes of behaviour that exist and function within the reality of social interaction, instead pointing to the archaic nature of fairy tales specifically referring to the damsel in distress syndrome. My works aim to explore the relationship between traditional and contemporary roles for women through the portrayal of characters. The portrayal of a mundane and traditionally female task can be seen in the image entitled Pricked (2010) (Figure 3).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3. Lydia Cook, Pricked (2010)

This character initially suggests roles depicted within traditional tales, with the character preparing a meal for a possible partner. On closer analysis these notions are challenged as the image reveals take-away containers and the character’s implied ineptitude at household tasks, through the accidental cutting of her finger. Sea Maiden (Figure 4) also comments on the portrayal of female roles.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 4. Lydia Cook, Sea Maiden (2010)

This character has carefully prepared sushi and is flirting in the spa pool. This comments on a more contemporary portrayal of a woman as she actively attempts to seduce. Beastly Beauty (2009) (Figure 5) displays confidence and determination through body language; facial expressions and eye contact endeavour to engage and seduce the viewer.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 5. Lydia Cook, Beastly Beauty (2009)

Questioning ideas raised by the Brother’s Grimms’ work and the use of traditional and modern roles by women in courtship led me to the theories of Jacques Lacan (1901 –1981 French psychoanalyst, psychiatrist and literary theorist). Lacan explores ideas around the impossibility of realising a particular object of desire to satisfy a need. To explain this idea, he coined the term “asymptotic course”. Professor Paul Fry (Professor of English, Yale University) describes this concept:

“ Lacan speaks of the impossibility of realizing an object of desire, because the metonymic structure of desire follows what he calls "an asymptotic course, "asymptotic" meaning the line which curves toward the line it wants to meet but never reaches it. There's a kind of an underlying punning sense in that word of the metonymic course of desire not revealing the symptom. It's asymptotic in that sense as well” (Fry, 2009).

This theory is cultivated through the idea of an underlying sense of need in wanting the asymptotic course to take place, and the idea of satisfying this ‘need’ comes into play when someone desires an object or person. Lacan explains that this course is revealed when symptoms of the need are endured and begin to surface through the instances that take place to create the asymptotic course. In terms of courtship, Lacan’s theory is evident when someone feels something for someone else (the symptom) and believes these feelings are necessary to gain this person. It is in this realisation that an individual takes action to court their potential partner, taking action prompts an asymptotic course to take place.

In order to understand how these two aspects interact, the metaphor of quilting between the two lines within the asymptotic course can be utilised. The cotton that binds the quilt creates connections between the two elements. This process takes place when you can’t ever “get” what you want but you can always have what you need if you try. In order to simplify this idea Professor Fry relates it to lyrics in The Rolling Stones’ famous song You Can’t Always Get What You Want. If Lacan were the Rolling Stones, he would have slightly rewritten the famous refrain by saying,

“"You can't ever 'git' what you want," right: "but sometimes if you try"--and you got to try. Even for what you need, you got to-- [laughter] right? [laughter] You can't just sit there--"Sometimes if you try you 'git' what you need." I'm sure that Mick Jagger had many sticky fingers in the pages of Lacan in order to be able to make that important distinction, but I think it's one that perhaps you might want to salt away the next time you feel confused about the distinction between desire and need” (Fry, 2009).

Here we are trying to distinguish between the ideas of desire and need. I am interested in intertwining such thought processes into my works in a visual sense; relating the idea of not being able to get what you want, a term explored by Lacan in Fry’s analogy, and the process of trying to find someone in the courtship process. This correlates with characters in my works being portrayed in isolation. The characters portray a longing to be desired by virtue of their isolation and apparent loneliness. Characters are represented in this context to generate empathy and association of the viewer with such loneliness.

As discussed, Zipes’ work reveals a number of important links between traditional fairy tales and the effect that these have upon how children and adults perceive courtship. The characters created in this set of images relate to a number of experimental ideas. Further images including Little Snow White (2009) (Figure 6), Frog (2009) (Figure 7), Rapunzel (2010) (Figure 8), Red Rose (2010) (Figure 9) and The Little Glass Slipper (2010) (Figure 10) were generated as part of the exploration and development of images during this stage of the project. The next chapter looks at ideas around gender roles and the implications this has upon courtship, representation and fairy tale conventions.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 6. Lydia Cook, Little Snow White (2009)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 7. Lydia Cook, Frog (2009)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 8. Lydia Cook, Rapunzel (2010)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 9. Lydia Cook , Rose-Red (2010)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 10. Lydia Cook, The Little Glass Slipper (2010)

Chapter two: Understanding gender identity and persona

In order to further explore notions of courtship within traditional tales I explore what fairy tale characters and women in contemporary society might have in common when looking for in an ideal courting partner. Exploring this concept raises the question of what different genders project, in order to be desired. The photographic works in this project look at how male and female characters are depicted in traditional tales, and in turn how aesthetic and symbolic elements can be both reflected and manipulated. In order to project gender, these aesthetic and symbolic elements are adapted through tools such as: costuming, props, set design and body language. It is at this stage of the project that I considered the possibility of exploiting assumptions made by the viewer regarding gender, through experimenting with dressing as a male.

When making aesthetic decisions about male and female characters in the series, I utilise a mixture of ideas inspired by traditional tales and my own interpretation of each character. Through this process that I was able to question the modes by which women distinguish gender. Achieving a male aesthetic, which I was happy with, was a challenging task and experimenting with props such as breastplates and masks helped in achieving the approach to masculinity that I sought. These elements also functioned to signify princes in traditional tales. The use of clothing that relates to the image of monarchy projected in traditional tales also helps the works to convey ideas about wealth and status. The image Chest Plate (2010) (Figure 11) reflects the exploration of such ideas. In particular I was exploring the aesthetic of knighthood and the authority that this holds to exhibit desirable characteristics in courtship.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 11. Lydia Cook , Chest Plate (2010)


[1] Walkerdine (1984: 163) cited in Wohlwend (2009:59) describes the damsel in distress concept as relating to “princess victims and princely rescuers, a classic trope in children’s literature and play that prepare(s) the ground for the insertion of the little girl into romantic heterosexuality”.

[2] Dowling expresses this notion of an ‘old role’ for women as a traditional view point expressed by women in society during the early twentieth century. Helene Deutsch’s publication The Psychology of Women: 1944 explains that women were likely to be happiest from her observations when they were subordinate to males. “They are the loveliest and most unaggressive of helpmates and they want to remain in that role; they do not insist on their own rights- quite to the contrary.”

Excerpt out of 73 pages


Courtship. A Photographic Investigation of Romantic Engagement
UNITEC New Zealand
Master of Design Majoring in Photography
Masters of Design with Merit
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
12143 KB
Courtship, Photography, Gender Confusion, Fairy Tales
Quote paper
Lydia Cook (Author), 2011, Courtship. A Photographic Investigation of Romantic Engagement, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Courtship. A Photographic Investigation of Romantic Engagement

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free