Jo Spence. Fairy Tales and Photography, or, another look at Cinderella

Jo Spence, 2020
Jo Spence. Fairy Tales and Photography, or, another look at Cinderella
Publisher: RRB Photoworks/ The Hyman Collection
Dimensions: 30 x 21.5 cm
Pages: 260
ISBN: 978-1-8382683
£ 75.00


RRB Photobooks and The Hyman Collection are pleased to present Fairy Tales and Photography, or, Another look at Cinderella, a facsimile of Jo Spence's masterful BA thesis. Written in 1982, the thesis was published in full for the first time in December 2020 - faithfully reproduced and bound in luxurious red cloth. It is accompanied by sister publication Class Slippers by Frances Hatherley, with a preface by Marina Warner. Available in a limited edition of 450 copies


"In Fairytales and Photography. Or, Another Look at Cinderella we are invited to take a look at the ambitious and wayward 1982 BA dissertation of the cultural worker and photographer Jo Spence. She asks ‘How do we take a story like Cinderella out of the archives, off the bookshelves, out of the retail stores and attempt to prise out its latent class content? Its political and social uses?’ Her chosen approach draws on her politics as a socialist feminist to inform her enquiry, untangling the interconnected gender and class oppressions in these historic tales.

"This dissertation brings together subjects, both personal and political, that she grappled with throughout her life: social class, family histories, sexuality, representation of women and visual ideologies. Her work drew on her own lived experience of being a woman from a working-class background, her battles with cancer, mental health, education and her family history, but throughout she was always socially minded, with an eye on the structures of power that shape our lives.

This is the first time the thesis has been published in full. It is in these pages that her career’s key concerns jump off the page and the seeds of later work are sown, that her previously free-floating discomfort and distrust around societal norms and patterns become crystallised into powerful arguments that go on to mobilise future projects. In this funny, scrappy, smart and insightful work, we are encouraged to take another look at Cinderella – and once we have, fairytales will never look the same again." - Frances Hatherley


Jo Spence (June 1934, London – June 1992, London) was a British photographer, a writer, cultural worker, and a photo therapist. Spence began her career as a commercial photographer, specialising in family portraits and wedding photos. Never quite at ease with the title ‘artist’, Spence much preferred the the tag as 'Cultural Sniper'; she used her camera to shoot and expose issues in wider society. She held the firm belief that photography has an empowering capacity when applied to complex issues of classism, social hierarchy, gender, and the body. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1982, Spence used photography as a therapeutic tool to document her battle with the disease.