Viral 'Handmaid's Tale' Wedding Photo Ignites The Internet

Viral Handmaid’s Tale Wedding Photo Ignites The Internet
“Everyone loves a good witch hunt…apparently today we are their witch,” Shawn Van Daele, the wedding photographer, told 'Newsweek.' Van Daele & Russell Photography

A wedding photo of a couple kissing is pretty typical. But can a wedding photo also be art? Make a statement? That's exactly what one wedding photographer attempted to do with a Handmaid's Tale themed photo, featuring a couple kissing flanked by women in the costumes enslaved characters wear on the show, in front of a wall used on the show to depict the murder of individuals who go against the fictional state featured in the Hulu series.

As you might imagine, social media responded questionably, accusing the couple of missing the point of the show. But the photographer told Newsweek that "it's a shame people are attacking without first learning," and that the photo was meant to send a message.

The photo was posted to social media Wednesday night and quickly ignited a debate about the point of the picture, so much so the wedding photographers responsible for the photo, Shawn Van Daele and Clint Russell of Van Daele & Russell Photography, had to turn off the comments on Instagram.

Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, originally based on a book by Margaret Atwood, is set in a dystopian future America where women are enslaved by ultra-religious elites. The wall in the wedding photo was used as the filming location for the Hulu series to depict the location where criminals—mainly enslaved women—are publicly murdered. The "handmaids" featured in the picture were photoshopped in by the photographers. The wedding photo was taken in Cambridge Mill, Canada, just south of Toronto.

"Clint and myself (the photographers) are actually a gay married couple (in Canada thankfully)," Van Daele told Newsweek. "The image and entire show touches on the oppression faced by the gay community, women and many other minority groups. It's deeply personal and a shame people are attacking without first learning"

The couple in the photo hasn't publicly addressed the backlash they received, but Van Daele is quick to squash what many are assuming: it was not a Handmaid's Tale themed wedding.

"This is one photo in a series of thousands from their wedding day," Van Daele told Newsweek. "It happened quickly in passing as a nod to the show and the venue, since it is filmed where they were married. It was intended mostly as a keepsake for them."

"We know we are all good, compassionate people who don't feel the need to defend ourselves from the conclusions everyone is jumping too," Van Daele continued. "We absolutely understand the gravity of the show's message, which is why we love the show so much—as terrifying real as it is becoming more and more every day (specifically from what we see in Canada happening in the U.S.)."

But Van Daele understands this is the nature of the internet.

"Everyone loves a good witch hunt...apparently today we are their witch," Van Daele told Newsweek.

In the end, the pair is happy about the conversation around the photo, regardless of whether some of it is negative. In a statement to media, they wrote "Mission: accomplished!"

"Everyone is talking about this issue now, rather than binging on a television series and then not doing ANYTHING about what they're SO worked up over until the next season comes out in the spring," the photographers said in their statement.