Tysons Corner Center hosts walk-through Princess Diana exhibit of royal photos

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Princess Diana exhibit (Part 1)

This August will mark the 25th anniversary of the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997.

You can celebrate her life in “Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition,” a new walk-through experience at Tysons Corner Center starting Wednesday in Tysons, Virginia.

“People are loving this thing,” Creative Director Cliff Skelliter told WTOP. “It’s a telling of the story of Princess Diana. We were super lucky we got to hook up with Anwar Hussein, who is the longest active royal photographer. He was there since Diana first got notoriety, all the way through to the end. He has stories nobody has heard before, and we share those stories.”

Ranked by CNN as one of the “12 best immersive experiences from around the world you need to visit,” visitors will walk through the exhibition as if they’re inside a documentary.

“We break it down like a documentary series; that’s why we coined the term ‘first of its kind walk-through documentary exhibition,'” Skelliter said. “You’re going through different episodes of her life, you put on headphones and you hear the voice of Anwar and his sons telling these close, beautiful stories to these larger-than-life images. It really brings you in.”

While Anwar Hussein was Princess Diana’s good friend and official royal photographer, his sons Samir and Zak are now the official photographers for the next generation of royals.

“We have over 100 photographs, all 8-feet tall by 5-foot wide,” Skelliter said. “We had to go through thousands and thousands of photographs just to pick the key, perfect ones. … Anwar Hussein is noted as the first royal photographer in history to bring a candid style to the photographs. Prior to Anwar, they were very posed. Anwar brought a casual style.”

Rather than moving in chronological order, the exhibit is organized thematically.

“We break it down by themes,” Skelliter said. “We have different themes from growing up to fashion — that deserves a whole section where we get into the fashion and glamour, these big, beautiful pictures of her dresses and the different articles of clothing she wore. Humanitarian, that’s a whole section of what this icon did and how she touched the world.”

In addition to the photographs, you’ll also see six giant paper sculptures.

“We hired this world-renowned paper sculptress named Pauline Loctin … from Quebec City,” Skelliter said. “She made these gigantic paper sculpture dedications of the hats and tiaras of Princess Diana, Meg and Kate — and they’re beautiful.”

You’ll emerge with a new appreciation for what Princess Diana endured.

“You’re looking at somebody put in an impossible situation and making it work,” Skelliter said. “Come in and watch this relatable person in a completely unrelatable situation.”

Expect to leave emotionally moved as you head back out into the world.

“I was watching people go through this who were laughing and crying, having all of the emotions that I hoped they would have,” Skelliter said. “This is a celebration of this wonderful woman, this icon, and it’s not just for the sake of celebrating people, it’s also in the hopes that people will elevate how they conduct themselves in the world.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Princess Diana exhibit (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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