Forbidden Fruit

Michaela Meadow

2015 - Ongoing

This project reflects my research into myths of female identity; metamorphosis, sexuality, death and rebirth. These stories are the basis for photographic interpretations which I aim to present with contemporary relevance whilst challenging and subverting traditional narratives.

Tales of forbidden fruit are often used as metaphors for female sexuality as taboo. From Eve and her apple in the garden of Eden to Persephone whom, after eating the seeds of the pomegranate, is condemned to marry the god of the underworld. These narratives warn us of the dangers of giving into temptation. However, I wish to challenge this, presenting visual responses from a female perspective.

Similarly, stories of metamorphosis fascinate me, particularly in ways they can be interpreted as metaphors for women’s subjective experience of their bodies in relation to the natural world. For example, in Ovid’s retelling of Daphne, she is transformed into a laurel tree to avoid capture and rape. I am interested in how such transformative stories may reflect inner psychological states of women.

Connected to the subject of transformation, rites of passage ceremonies found in many cultures often involve a symbolic death and rebirth. In ‘A Hero with a Thousand Faces’ (1949) Joseph Campbell described common patterns that connect many mythological narratives; a hero usually embarks on a voyage, faces a series of trials and self-discovery, before gaining his status. This is a universal narrative pattern found in nearly every culture. However, the protagonist in these stories is almost always male. I would like to imagine an alternative, ‘heroine’s journey’ through my photographs.

Essentially, I wish to re-imagine these stories through the lens of the female gaze. I’m interested in the possible messages these stories might carry for a contemporary audience; presenting myths for the modern day. These images are about self-discovery and sexual awakening, explore the female subjective experience of both body and psyche and consider how we might embrace our untamed nature. Through visual metaphor and staged photographs, I aim to subvert outmoded structures and begin to imagine new ways of seeing.

A grant would enable me to push these ideas further; to develop new work that boldly engages with these stories and allow me to produce and present a collection of the images in a photo-book and exhibition.


Pomegranate split open, seeds echoing areola,

Jewels of blood, forbidden fruit.

Lace veiled, bride of the underworld,

Wed to the dark, fecund places.

Embryonic body, in a nest of moss and leaves,

Tendrils of tangled hair, veins below flesh.

Supplicant to the forest floor, emerging from

Baba Yaga’s hut of bones and branches.

Persephone in the dead forest, cradles her fruit,

Sowing seeds for future summers.

Fluid body reflections, punctuated by raindrops.

Between the cliff edge and rock,

She dreams of crashing waves, crushed silk and daisies.

White chalk ghost.

Angels of anarchy, taking flight in an abandoned church.

Suspended above floorboards, a weeping Madonna.

Becoming still as a tree, she can hide from her Fate.

Torn dress and bruised knee, she was born from the sea.

Baptism of salt water.

Climbing dunes, bare-skinned.

Flighty metamorphosis, divining language in flowers.

Wild woman of the bleeding hills.

Undoing her dress, she steps into the ancient well.

Blue moon, lace light.

Everything has its season. Eventually, primavera.

She is reborn.

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