Artist Sonya Hurtado with her surreal serie of photographs ‘Tales’ attempts to recreate the imaginary world of childhood. A world that can be inhabited by feelings of isolation, fear and despair. The images offer a “modern” version of well-known fairy tales.

Much of Sonya Hurtado’s work takes children as its subjects with images that appeal to adults and children alike. With her work the viewer is left side by side confronted by the childhood innocence and the darkness of complex emotions faced by human nature.

She doesn’t capture moments; she creates imaginary situations, blending themes of actuality with techniques of pop culture and the old masters. Her compositions mix photographs, illustrations and collages to tell stories.


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Alice in Wonderland

The rabbit is always in a hurry, running to keep time and meet the demands from the Queen of Hearts. He is trapped. The window and the open cage represent freedom. This is a reflection of how we ¬ children and adults ¬ choose to live our lives, forever rushing around in an insane effort to meet spurious needs. Hamsters on a wheel going nowhere. How can we ever hope to free ourselves from the unrealistic demands placed on us by society and ourselves?


Pinocchio, a wooden boy without a heart, struggles to obey the rules and behave according to the norms. He tries, often to no avail. Only once he learns to be a good boy does he receive a heart from the fairy. What does it mean to have a child who is incomplete or a ‘misfit’? When does a label stop being a label?
The artist is the mother of a boy that was born with congenital heart disease, having to undergo surgery to correct the anomaly. He is also autistic, which results in a constant battle with received notions of normality and acceptance.
He is the portrait of a modern¬ day Pinocchio. How many more Pinocchios inhabit the Earth? How many faces embodying difference?


Rapunzel is a lonely girl who wants to see the world but she is not allowed and is kept locked up in the tower by her mother. Sometimes the world is staring us in the face but we are scared to see it or take the opportunities it offers us. Should we wait for the right person to save us? The prince to climb up the tower and rescue us? Or should we take the plunge and jump? How can we step outside the confines of whatever is holding us back?

The milk lady

The tale tell us about the daughter of a farmer that is carrying a jar full of milk to sell in the village and on her way she starts making plans for the future:

‘When I sell this milk I will then buy 300 eggs and those eggs will give me at least 250 chickens.
When the chickens grow up I will sell them all in the market to the highest price so I could buy with this money the best dress to go to parties.
When in the party all the handsome boys will want to be with me and I will decide which will be my future husband…’

But at that moment she twisted her foot and all the milk spilled on the floor and so all her dreams vanished.

Day dreaming and dreaming ‘big’ is normal in childhood. Big plans, big projects, big visions. But it is arguably everyone’s experience that ambitious dreams do not always become a reality. And there is but a short step between reality and disappointment.

Red Riding Hood

A little girl is preyed upon by a hungry wolf who devours her. In her bright red outfit she is an easy target. She forgets her Mother’s warning to stay on the path and falls prey to the charming and friendly wolf.

A rhyme at the end of the original tale expresses a warning to young girls about these dangers.

Little girls, this seems to say, never stop upon your way. Never trust a stranger friend, no one knows how it will end.

As you’re pretty so be wise, wolves may lurk in every guise.

Handsome they may be, and kind, gay, and charming – never mind!

Now, as then, ‘tis simple truth – sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth!

The Pied Piper

In the story the piper sought revenge on the town after the Mayor refused to pay him for ridding the town of rats. This picture represents the story of power, betrayal and revenge underpinning the tale. The children are shown caught up in the power game, represented here by the chessboard. More often than not, it is the innocent (the children, the dispossessed, the marginalised) who are at the receiving end of the mindless power struggles plaguing modern society.

Sleeping Beauty

Trying to protect their daughter from a curse, which predicts she’ll die by pricking her finger on a spindle, the King and Queen destroy all the spindles in the kingdom. But the bad fairy leads the princess to a spindle and in her curiosity she pricks her finger and falls into a 100 year sleep. Instead of warning their daughter about the dangers she faced, the parents tried to protect her by sheltering her from the threat. The curse became a taboo. But having been over¬protected for so long she didn’t know what a spindle was or that it could ever poses a threat. And touch she did.

Naturally, all parents want to protect their children from the dangers that lie ahead. But often over protecting our children can give rise to rebellious behaviour and an inability to recognise danger.

The son of the moon

A gypsy woman falls in love with a man from another tribe whom she is not allowed to marry. She cries and pleads to the moon for help. The moon agrees on condition that the woman surrenders her first-born child. The baby is born with pale skin and the man thinks the woman has betrayed him. So he kills her and abandons the child who is taken away and looked after by the moon. According to the story, the phases of the moon depend on the mood of the child.

This child was born into conflict, being part of two opposing tribes and being promised to the moon.

We don’t choose the circumstances into which we are born. We might be born rich or poor, boy or girl, into a world of peace or a theatre of war, nurtured in love or thrown into the arms of hatred. And that is the raw material, the foundation stone of our life journey.