Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibit Debuts at Casa Loma Toronto – Media Preview
(此文源為英文版，欲看中文版請點以下連結🔗 / This post is in English, for the Chinese version, please click on the link below🔗 ）：
(disclaimer: images in this post are photographed by the Fashion Ecstasy team, the original photography credits from the exhibition go to Anwar Hussein and his sons, Samir and Zak)
(中文版殘編努力中，敬請期待。。。/ stay tuned for the Chinese version)
Princess Diana Exhibition: Accredited Access is a profoundly intimate, larger-than-life immersive exhibition of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. On display at Casa Loma from April 20th to June 12th, this exhibition showcases a mixture of original photography, artifacts, bespoke art installations, and never-been-told stories from world-famous ‘royal photographer‘ Anwar Hussein and his sons, Samir and Zak. Each photo has an extraordinary story behind it – the circumstances surrounding that moment, the conversations held with its subject, or how they captured that image.
The visitors are guided through a 60-minute tour of the exhibit featuring six different sections on the second and third floors of Casa Loma: The Photography Dark Room, Growing, Humanitarian, Glam, Crowning Glory, and Unguarded. There is also a complimentary audio guide narrated by Zak, Samir, and Anwar Hussein, who worked alongside the Princess and her family for four decades and captured many of Princess Diana‘s and the British royal family‘s milestone moments and engagements on camera.
Below are highlights from Casa Loma’s entire Princess Diana exhibition:
- The Photography dark room
The Photography Dark Room is the first room visitors enter and is filled with several portraits of the senior royal family members: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Charles. In this leg of the tour, the Husseins shared their stories behind some iconic royal images, including the birth of Prince Louis and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex walking through a forest during their Australia and New Zealand tour.
In particular, there’s one photo of a young Princess Diana with a sad look on her face while holding a single rose close to her chest. When Anwar asked her if he had done anything wrong, she cried that Charles never gave her roses. Anwar felt so much sympathy for her that he always ensured that she was photographed receiving roses from the people she met during engagements.
From the Photography Dark Room, the exhibition flows into the Growing section. Here, visitors revisit the early days of Lady Diana Spencer, from a 19-year-old kindergarten teacher to becoming a young mother to Princes William and Harry. The audio guide mentioned that the world seemed to have forgotten just how young Princess Diana was when she began her royal journey. One picture showed then-Lady Diana leaving her apartment and walking to her car. At the time, Anwar described her as quite friendly yet shy. He also mentioned that she didn’t mind the media attention surrounding her.
This part of the exhibition also featured Princes William and Harry‘s pictures as they grew older. She was a wonderful mother to her boys and loved them dearly. Her hands-on and down-to-earth approach to motherhood redefined what it meant to be a Royal mother. Instead of placing her children into the hands of the first available governess and tutor, she was very passionate about making sure her children had an emotional connection and understanding of the world outside of their Royal bubble. Her efforts included visiting the homeless, going to theme parks, and travelling to Niagara Falls. There was a famous video clip of Princess Diana competing in the Mother’s Race at Harry‘s school on Sports Day. She paved the way for her now-adult children to raise their own families with the same values and ideals.
It’s also worth noting that Zak and Samir essentially grew up with the princes as their father often brought them to events. One photograph in this exhibit displayed an 8-year-old Zak holding a tiny camera while standing next to Queen Elizabeth II. The picture next to it was Samir chatting with Prince William over drinks during their tour of Auckland, New Zealand, in 2010. In those pictures, visitors saw the closeness the Husseins had —and still have— with the British royal family.
- Humanitarian and the power of touch
Princess Diana was known worldwide for her charity work, particularly with HIV/AIDS and for calling for an international ban on landmines. In this room, Anwar captured many moments where Princess Diana inspired the world to lead their lives with love in their hearts and extend that same love to those who genuinely need compassion and understanding.
Many of the pictures in this room were of Diana meeting many individuals in hospitals worldwide. The stories behind these photos were just as powerful as the images themselves. One photograph captured Princess Diana sitting across from and shaking hands with one of the patients, who was terminally ill with AIDS. This picture was shot in April, 1987 at the UK‘s first HIV/AIDS unit in London‘s Middlesex Hospital. At the time, the AIDS epidemic was running rampant and claimed many people’s lives around the world. There were so many stigmas around the disease that it got to the point where people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS were quickly outcasted and deemed “untouchable” by society. Anwar shot the image from behind the patient to protect his identity in this image. The very gesture of touching an AIDS patient strongly challenged the harmful myth that people can get HIV/AIDS via touching. The gesture also called out the ridiculous hysteria and bigotry surrounding the disease. Touch became such an essential part of her royal engagements and, ultimately, her legacy. She held their hands, gave them hugs, and showed the world just how deep, sincere, and caring her love for humanity was.
Princess Diana was a fashion style icon. There’s no disputing that fact. This room showcased the evolution of her personal style and how she pushed boundaries and changed royal fashion for the future generation. The first picture seen is from March 9th, 1981, when Diana (then 19 years old) had her first royal engagement at a fundraising concert at Goldsmiths Hall in aid of the Royal Opera House. She was publicly ripped to shreds by the media and privately scolded by Prince Charles for wearing a black, strapless, taffeta gown with a revealing neckline to the event. At the time, black was traditionally worn by the Royal family for mourning. Since that “horrendous occasion,” she has been much more conscious of her outfits and how she used fashion to convey important messages.
Other pictures in this room included images from her wedding day, where Diana wore the iconic ivory taffeta gown with the 25-foot train designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel. Anwar even shot that iconic kiss shared by Princess Diana and Prince Charles from the balcony at Buckingham Palace in front of 750 million people. This tradition has since been repeated by Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, when they got married in April 2011.
Over the years, Princess Diana became more confident in her role as a working royal, which was reflected in her fashion choices. She experimented with sporting royal heirlooms as headbands, wearing long strand necklaces down her sexy backless gowns, and moving away from voluminous ruffles to sleek and elegant silhouettes that showed off her shoulders. Fun fact: When Princess Diana visited children in hospitals, she often wore bright, pastel, and light colours to cheer them up and make the visits less formal.
Another picture in this room worth mentioning is the “Revenge Dress” photo. This famous photo was taken on June 29th, 1994, the same day Prince Charles admitted on national television that he had been unfaithful in his marriage to Princess Diana. According to the audio guide, instead of hiding in humiliation, she took control by showing up to the Vanity Fair fundraising gala in a black Christina Stambolian–designed cocktail dress. One day later, the press dubbed the dress the “Revenge Dress,” The world gave her a collective, yes, queen, werk, for pulling off this power move while looking like a million dollars.
Since then, she openly defied royal protocol with this dress. The same press that once admonished her for wearing a shoulder-baring black gown to her first royal engagement changed their tune to celebrate her and this iconic black dress. She pushed the envelope on what was considered stylish and acceptable for royal women in attire for royal engagements and other events they attend.
- Crowning glory
Carrying on with the fashion theme, the exhibition flows into Crowning Glory, a room that displays the art installations created by multimedia artist Pauline Loctin. The monuments in this room pay honour and homage to the beautiful hats and fascinators worn by Princess Diana, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Each monument was constructed out of paper. One of the installations was a shiny, hot pink, totem-pole-looking sculpture covered in dramatic folds and shapes. The statue was inspired by the “Princess Pink” hats she wore during her first Royal Tour of Australia in 1983. The tour was so successful that it ignited a worldwide obsession with her, appropriately called “Dianamania.”
Another paper installation is displayed in a separate room, a highly detailed replica of the Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara. This piece is scaled 500% larger than the actual tiara and made of more than 200 pieces of paper. Princess Diana often wore the real Queen Mary‘s Lover’s Knot Tiara to royal engagements during her tenure as Princess of Wales.
Lastly, this room showcased some of the most vulnerable and personal moments of the Royal family. Pictures in this section included the iconic image of Princess Diana sitting alone on a bench in front of the Taj Mahal, and below it, a photo of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recreating the same image in front of the Taj Mahal years later. There was also a lovely picture of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, watching Prince Harry compete in the Sentebale Polo Cup in July 2018. In this picture, she had a soft, intimate expression on her face as she watched Prince Harry compete in the match. Visitors noted how they could see the love that shone from Meghan‘s eyes at that moment. It was a beautiful moment that Anwar captured on camera.
The very last photo in this exhibition is entitled, Pure Love. Anwar took this picture of Princess Diana cradling a young, blind cancer patient in her arms during a visit to Imran Khan‘s cancer hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, in April 1996. She tenderly held the boy close to her for a long time. Even though the child was blind and was in pain from all of the visible surgical cuts and sores on his head, you can see that he was comfortable in her loving embrace. Anwar remarked that Princess Diana told him that this photograph was her favourite one out of all of the pictures he shot of her. This image was the perfect picture to end the exhibition with because it powerfully captured her legacy: leading life from the heart, becoming a worldwide symbol for love, kindness, compassion, and charity, and using her platform to raise awareness for creating positive change in the world.
Following the exhibition tour, the media was treated to a glamorous cocktail party hosted by the Liberty Entertainment Group. Visitors were treated to delicious hors d’oeuvres and a specialty cocktail called the Tequila Bellini, Princess Diana‘s favourite cocktail.
For more information and tickets to the Princess Diana exhibition, please visit Casa Loma‘s website at: www.casaloma.ca