Nadja is a fine art photographer interested in the oral tale as a way to explore new narratives offside the path.
She was born in 1993 in a small medieval village in the middle of Germany. Spending most time in the forest and in books she fell in love with fairy tales, folklore and storytelling. After completing a bachelor’s degree in photography at the University of Applied Science in Munich, she switched her focus from fashion photography to fine art photography and enrolled in 2018 at the Royal College of Art in London.
“Path of Pins” is a personal, indefinite visual retelling of Red Riding Hood, revolving around the awakening of the primordial and archaic feminine. I use the aspect of retelling and the fluid character of fairy tales to develop new narrative structures, deviating from one universal truth and opening up to a variety of interpretations.
In one of the earliest oral versions of the fairytale, which later inspired Charles Perrault to write his ‘Petit Chaperon Rouge’, the wolf asks the unnamed heroine: “Which path will you take?”, to which she responds with her decision to take the path of pins, the more careless and fleeting one – as opposed to the path of needles, the irreversible way of the wolf.
This metaphor of pins and needles also relates to how fairy tales are being circulated and treated: Like a butterfly collector, Perrault kills the living, ever-evolving oral tale, in order to present it to the reader in a pose he artificially forced upon it: Not only does he appropriate the story, but he tortures the heroine with his own ideology. While in the early variant of the narrative the heroine tricks the wolf and escapes with artfulness and the help of washerwomen and the forces of nature, Perrault reduces her to a naive girl, and even blames her for her own violation.
Through the fluid character of the fairy tale, I want to retell the story without pressing it into a static form: While the photograph is indeed a fixed moment, the interpretation of it, as well as the before and after, is open, and can therefore change. Within and between the images, I want to send the heroine on a new journey, into the darkness, the subconscious, offside the path, to discover her feminine identity through the play adults often unlearn.
Fairy tales have a centuries-old history and can be found in all cultures. Although today often only a single version of a fairy-tale type is popular, there are actually usually hundreds of variations. Through the process of storytelling and re-telling, they continue to develop, consolidate and absorb cultural and political developments.
My practice builds on this aspect of retelling, using the fluid character of the fairy tale to develop new variations and narrative structures. In collaboration with my protagonists, a personal narrative is created. The story thus becomes a transitional object: An inner world is projected into the forest. Through this outward-everting, an experiential and shared space is made possible. Here the protagonist can meet and experience themselves and each other through the act of playing in the double sense of the word: as the childlike engagement in a game as well as the acting a part.
All images © Nadja Ellinger
An Edge of Humanity Magazine Project
CURATOR | Joelcy Kay