Tuesday, May 03, 2022

An Exhibit fit for a Princess

As an avid follower of the British royal family, I have seen more than my fair share of exhibits about Diana, Princess of Wales. I have seen one at Althorp, her ancestral estate, Kensington Palace, Cleveland, Ohio, an elegant exhibit in Hudson’s Bay, Toronto, as well as a truly terrible one at the Design Exchange in Toronto, where I found one of Diana’s famous dresses, (auctioned in 2013 for $80,000 CDN), roped off in the corner of a gift shop.

Almost 25 years after Diana’s death, it is hard to believe that there is sufficient interest to warrant an exhibit. Judging by the gift shop dress, you could say the interest peaked a while ago. This is not the case with Princess Diana: Accredited Access, where it combines two of my interests, photography, and the royal family.

A photography exhibit in as lovely a setting as Casa Loma befits a princess. True, it’s not Buckingham Palace, but it beats a sparse meeting space with video footage on loop. Built in 1914, it is a Gothic Revival mansion and garden in Toronto, which is a popular wedding and film production venue. I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t already done so.

The exhibit features the photos of two generations of royal photographers. While the photography can stand on its own, the audio tour is an absolute must to follow along. Narrated by the photographers, they discuss each photo, the context it was taken, how they took the memorable photos, and the impact. A masterclass if there ever was one.

In her time, Diana was arguably the most photographed woman in the world, she knew how to use the camera to make an impact. One famous photograph of Diana shaking the hands of an AIDs patient, without gloves, did more to dispel myths behind transmission, than any campaign ever could. The imagery is that powerful.

The exhibit was set throughout the historic mansion, winding your way with life sized portraits of Diana, it makes you feel you are in a special place. The life-sized portraits add an impact, bringing you into the scene as no previous exhibit ever has for me. The audio tour wasn’t in chronological order, which makes for a disjoined journey. There is an art installation, inspired by royal millinery, which felt tacked on. Impressive but it felt disjointed without the connection to the previous exhibit. It ends, as all exhibits do, in an exorbitantly expensive gift shop, (sans famous dress). You don’t need to be a fan of Diana to enjoy Princess Diana: Accredited Access, but it helps.

Princess Diana: Accredited Access runs at Casa Loma from April 20, 2022, to June 12, 2022.


© Marilyn Braun 2022 

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