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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Informing Contexts – Work Evaluation – Twisted Tinkerbells

My Twisted Tinkerbell project started when I spotted a Facebook post by an American photographer, Heather Lickliter Larkin. In 2016, Larkin produced a body of work called ‘Hairyography’. Initially intended as an April Fool’s joke, the hairy guys dressed as mythical fairies resonated with me.

My initial approach was to copy Larkin’s images. The resultant image in figure 2 is somewhat uncomfortable to look at. The image is too literal a copy of figure 1 and the subject looks uncomfortable in what he was being asked to do.

The subject applied to take part in the shoot after I had sent him a link to a moodboard. His motive was to get a wider variety of shoots under his belt and said that this was so far detached from his normal style that it really excited him.

Makeup was applied by a good friend of mine and was purposely feminine in nature, including purple contact lenses and false eyelashes.

The top that the subject is wearing is his own; butterflies were added to it for effect.  The subject was asked to pout and look directly at the camera.  This is the resultant image. The gaps in the top and his nipple showing through have added a layer of fetishism to the image that was not intentional when the shoot was planned.  This does however add another layer of narrative.

Viewers of this image either love it or hate it.  My blog post (link below) records comments that various viewers made about the image.


Figure 1: Heather Lickliter Larkin. 2016. Faun.


Figure 2: Sutherst. 2016. Pout


Figure 3: Heather Lickliter Larkin. 2016. Legs


Figure 4: Sutherst. 2016. Legs

Figure 4 is a better copy of figure 3 and the woodland background is preferable to the studio background of figure 2. It adds context and a layer of narrative to the image.

Both of my shots used high key lighting against a blue background.  I chose a blue backdrop because blue is often associated with masculinity.  Using this colour would be in direct contrast to the feminine styling of the shoot.  Blue is often used behind men in portraits and can be see to demonstrate and emphasise the power and seriousness of the subject.

Within this body of work, I wanted to put a modern twist on the subject through the use of extreme styling and props used. The literal translation of Larkin’s images did not have enough individuality and enough of my own or my subject’s personalities in them.

Since these early images in figures 2 and 4, my approach and confidence in my intent have evolved.  Throughout the project I have aimed to challenge gender stereotypes through my use of both male and female subjects depicting Tinkerbell. Barrie depicted his character Tinkerbell as a tiny fairy companion to Peter Pan.  Barrie (2015: 24) describes her as “exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage”.  Throughout Peter Pan, women are conveyed as objects and Neverland is dominated by men.  The male characters are in control and have, what appears to be, full authority over the female characters.

I wanted to produce images that challenged this view and that are different to those that were expected and anticipated. My intent was to produce images of female fairies that did not objectify the women in them, and I also wanted to portray men in a similar way. As Barrie (2015: 36) said, “no one can fly unless the fairy dust has been blown on him”.

Figure 5 is the male Tinkerbell ‘Mark’.  Mark is a photographer friend who approached me about becoming a fairy.  I decided, along with the makeup artist, that he should have a Pop Art feel to his makeup (figure 6).

Mark was happy to wear anything and be styled however I felt would work.  I decided on pink as the main colour scheme as this is commonly thought of as a female colour.  To give him a modern twist, I gave him 2 Nerf guns as props and asked him to be a ‘gangsta’ fairy.  Despite the extreme styling, Mark was able to pull this off really well (figure 5).  The shoot was great fun and as the voice recording clips below show, Mark along with myself and the makeup artist really had a great time during the shoot.


Figure 5: Sutherst. 2017. Mark

Mark -1186

Figure 6: Sutherst 2107


Figure 7: Sutherst. 2017. Mel

When I was photographing Mel in figure 7, I wanted to make her into a strong, rebellious Fairy.  In deciding on the theme, I was conscious of making sure that she was not objectified in the way that Barrie portrayed fairies.  In Peter Pan, he commented (2015: 74) “After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy.” If we take this at face value, we believe that Barrie implies that fairies are involved in drunken expressions of sexual appetite.  This was directly opposite to what I wanted to portray in this project.

Mel was styled as a goth fairy, with a flash of black and purple glitter across her face (figure 9). This was inspired by Brian Duffy’s photograph of David Bowie (figure 8). The use of her own boots really helped with the styling and added a rocky vibe to the shoot.

Mel also wore horns during the shoot so that she had an edgier look. During the shoot, Mel was asked to show her rebellious side, which she did very well by biting my artificial sunflowers and generally rocking the shoot with her antics.  She made sure that she always gave a variety of expressions and body shapes.


Figure 8: Brian Duffy. 1973. Aladdin Sane Album Cover

Mel -1126

Figure 9: Sutherst 2017

NPG Gallery Record - Exhibition Image – Digital Copy

Figure 10: Spencer Murphy. 2013. Katie Walsh

Many of my Twisted Tinkerbell shots have been taken in a studio with a white or black background, in much the same way as Spencer Murphy shoots many of his portraits. The intention for these images was to allow the viewer no distractions away from the subject so that their eye has nowhere else to go. I wanted my subjects to be saying ‘focus entirely on me as there is nothing else to look at’.

The downside to this is that the image can appear cold and sterile. Murphy’s portrait of the jockey Katie Walsh (Figure 9) was awarded the 2013 Taylor Wessing photography prize, and has been taken against a plain background to ensure that all the focus is on the subject and the strength Murphy was aiming to portray.


Figure 11: Spencer Murphy. 2013. Congo Natty AKA Rebel MC

Murphy’s work is in demand.  In 2013, Congo Natty AKA Rebel MC (a pioneer of the UK jungle scene) commissioned Murphy to photograph him for his new album.

The result is a beautifully shot portrait that really captures the essence of the artist.  The plain background, once again, makes sure that all the viewer’s attention is focused on Congo Natty.


Barrie, J. M. 2015. Peter Pan (Word Cloud Classics). Reprint Edition. Canterbury Classics.


Figure 1: Lickliter Larkin, H. 2016. Faun. From Hairyography. (2017). The Photos. [online] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2017].

Figure 3: Lickliter Larkin, H. 2016. Legs. From Hairyography. (2017). The Photos. [online] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2017].

Figure 8: Duffy, B. 1973. Aladdin Sane Album Cover         From (2017). David Bowie is: About the Exhibition – Victoria and Albert Museum. [online] Available at: [Accessed 01 Apr. 2017].

Figure 10: Murphy, S. 2013. Katie Walsh. From Spencer Murphy. 2017. Portraits – Spencer Murphy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2017].

Figure 11: Murphy, S. 2013. Congo Natty AKA Rebel MC. From Spencer Murphy. 2017. Portraits – Spencer Murphy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2017].

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