[Image Description] Ophelia wears a dark dress. She has pale skin, dark hair and painted lips. She floats in a pool of blue water, her hands near her face, the finger tips and face left uncovered by the water. Her eyes are closed. Pink flower petals float around her. A red stain is in the water near her body. ]
Interview with Maddie Natoli, model featured in both “Ophelia’s Death” pictures.
TLM: What was the inspiration for these photographs?
MN: I have always wanted to do an Ophelia themed photo shoot actually. She has always been one of my favorite Shakespearean characters, and in my opinion Gertrude’s monologue on how she died is one of my favorite Shakespearean pieces. He eloquently captured her death in a way that addressed her beauty, but [also] the tragic nature that was her death. I asked Presley if she would do the shoot, because I was familiar with her love for photography, but I also knew she would be able to appreciate and enjoy doing the shoot because she is as big of a Shakespeare fan as I am.
TLM: What are you trying to change about diversity or representation through creating these images?
MN: I would love to be able to say I witnessed the acceptance of ‘unconventional’ models be referred to [as] just models. Creating and encouraging projects that are inclusive will help show the world that there’s nothing wrong with being disabled, heavier set, being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, or the POC community. Casting unconventional people in traditional roles helps us break down social barriers. A recent and widely popular example of this would be Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”. Representation matters, and at the end of the day, all anyone wants to know is that their presence on this Earth matters, and when you can’t find characters that you relate to, or that look like you, it can be very hurtful to younger audiences. I want people to see themselves in these characters and in our project.
TLM: Why do you feel these aspects of representation need to be challenged or changed?
MN: Representation hasn’t really changed much, until this last decade, about. We need to, as a society, need to become more conscious of how repetitive our media, our blockbuster movies, and our New York Times best selling lists have become. It’s boring to see the same stories over and over again. We need new faces, we need to allow POC and LGBTQ artists tell their stories. We need to see the way they deal with their struggles and how they celebrate their triumphs.
TLM: What about this Shakespeare character did you find inspirational?
MN: I find Ophelia to be a very strong character who had to deal with the loss of not only her father, but of the man she loved. She watched Hamlet slowly descend into madness, and then the effect of that madness took her beloved father from her, which in turn, cemented the decision that she take her own life. Nothing about suicide is romantic, and despite the act being the central part of our piece, neither Presley or I wanted to portray her suicide in a light that was seen as romantic, but as a depressed character who made the irreversible decision.
TLM: What place do you think this character has in today’s media?
MN: We have seen many different characterizations of characters who are mentally ill or who have taken their own life pop up in the last couple of years, but none of the characters have been properly portrayed, in my opinion. I hope people look at our Ophelia and understand that she stands for people who have dealt with hardships, that she stands for all those struggling with illnesses, whether they are mental or physical, and last but not least, that she stands for those we’ve lost to suicide.
TLM: Where can readers learn more about your work?
MN: Readers can go check Presley and I out on our Instagrams, @mimzee_madz_photography and @presleynasissephotography. To follow the project as a whole, the Instagram @shakespearephotoproject is where we keep all of our sets. To be a part of the project, you can private message us on Instagram, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org