Photographer defends wedding photo with Handmaid’s Tale theme

Van Daele & Russell/Getty Images

A photographer who shot a couple’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”-themed wedding photo defended the image after widespread backlash.

The controversial photo depicts a scene from the Hulu hit series that shows the pair of newlyweds in front of the location of the “hanging wall” — a site of corporal punishment in the show’s fictional land of Gilead where bodies are hung — with handmaids dressed in the iconic red garb digitally edited into the image.

Shawn Van Daele of Van Daele & Russell Photography, which shot the photo, said the online backlash was the whole point of creating it.

Van Daele said the photo going viral was what he’d hoped for, adding that he hopes it will “wake people up to how they too contribute to the oppression and hatred that they’re rightfully worked up over,” he told NBC News.{mosads}

“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,” Van Daele said. “What’s sad is that the oppression and hatred, the division, fear and breakdown of HUMANITY & COMPASSION is being perpetuated in every one of these comments.”

The show, based on a novel by Margaret Atwood, takes place in the Republic of Gilead, a dystopian U.S. society in which women have been stripped of reproductive autonomy and are forced to give birth.

Van Daele said the unidentified couple “are no strangers to many of the subplots of oppression, violence, and inequality that run through Margaret’s brilliant work.”

“What’s sad is that everyone is REACTING exactly as expected — just like in Gilead — and missing the opportunity to think for themselves, to educate themselves and become ENGAGED ACTIVISTS instead of simply keyboard warriors,” he told NBC News.

He added that he wants the image to inspire others to join in protests including women’s marches and “so many other important causes, instead of sitting here scrolling through Instagram.”

The show’s cast members have used their platform to take stances on social causes, including supporting abortion rights in the wake of several states passing restrictive abortion laws.

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