As the Fairy Tales Unfold

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Geng, Yangyang


Sartor, Margaret

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This project consists of two parts. The first part is a photo book, which includes my photographs of children and an accompanying text of individual stories of childhood, including my own. The second part is an analytical essay, which explores my process in creating and editing my photographs in the larger context of how other artists have approached the depiction of childhood. Specifically, I look at the work of photographers Wendy Ewald, Sally Mann and Olive Pierce, as each of these artists chose to depict the days of childhood by giving individual voice to the children who are most often overlooked or ignored. Over the summer of 2015, I worked with and photographed children in an orphanage school in China. I continued to make photographs of children in Durham, North Carolina and in Cuba in 2015 and 2016. As the photographs pulled me back to the past of my own childhood, I discovered that in a child’s world, ordinary things became magical vehicles and that childhood is often about the awkward process of learning to inhabit a newly bulky, changed body with aggressive needs and intensified fantasies. As a photographer, I am drawn to the beauty and pathos of the moments, when, for example, a boy, in his games, becomes a pirate, a soldier, or a sailor, or a little girl plays with a doll and imagines she is the princess. I have tried to capture and evoke the daydreams and the feelings of being lost that are specific to childhood. With my writing and in my photo book project, I have also tried to create spaces in which I allow other’s perceptions to surface with my own.





Geng, Yangyang (2016). As the Fairy Tales Unfold. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.