|Babies create strong emotions for the bearer, holder, and observer. I have discovered this holds true even when it is known the baby is not real. |
I am photographing dolls that are created to look and like living babies. They are constructed and weighted to feel like infants, which includes a head that must be supported while in one’s arms. They are the most powerful objects I have ever worked with, I am struck by the strong and palpable emotional reactions they produce. They provoke the dominant biological instinct to nurture and the entire spectrum of human behavior.
There are roughly three main components to this series:
I have been photographing the reborning subculture of women who create and love these dolls. For several years I have been attending their conventions and events such as baby showers and baby beauty contests. Most of the women I have encountered who are part of this community are exceptionally loving nurturers and caregivers. They have an especially strong passion for babies and this is a method to keep them in their lives. There is a wide range of personal stories and motivations for being involved in this world. Some create or collect these dolls because they cannot continue to give birth to living babies, or have lost a child, or cannot have one of their own. Some women admire the art form and are doll collectors, others adopt and create nurseries in their homes and integrate the babies as part of their families and lives.
Carrie Fisher has been my primary muse with these dolls. She utilized her talents as a performer to create scenarios inspired by these artificial entities. I am in awe of her powers of transformation and her ability to express and create compelling, raw, and emotive scenes with these babies. Carrie drew from her dark humor, deep wit, and creative genius to construct scenes of a haggard homemaker, a bored mother, and a beautiful, sophisticated housewife, all the while acting out forbidden thoughts and impulses with brave intelligence. Her ability to perform as instinctively and without censorship for still photography as she does on the screen and stage has been a pleasure to capture.
The third part of this series involves the general public. I bring the dolls to different social situations and photograph responses. When I am with a “baby,” my status changes in the world, I am mother, grandmother, aunt: I am constantly approached and inquiries are made about my child. I always explain that the baby is not real, I inform them that this is a project. My photographs capture their reactions and are not staged. People take the baby and create their own narratives.
This series is the latest incarnation of my work that explores different aspects of artifice and our impulses to create illusionary objects and situations that fulfil various emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs.
Everything in the physical world, both animate and inanimate, is challenged and affected by time. The quest for perfection is a continual battle against the forces of aging and injury, and maintenance of beauty requires increasing artifice.
Perfect beauty in all things living and inanimate is revered by our society. Once that beauty ages and is damaged, its embodiment becomes devalued and often is discarded.
Mannequins are exemplars of an idealized, unobtainable, youthful perfection. These cloned representations of society's ideal of beauty hold this status for a limited time. Standards of beauty are constantly changing; today's ideal facial features, hair styles and make up become
These generic icons achieve individuality and their own unique character only after they become marked by usage and decay. They have accidents, sit in the sun, are well treated or not, are dressed and undressed and touched countless times. Only after the mannequins get marked, reflecting their individual experiences, do they become
unique.This damage is a reminder of our own mortality. Just like the humans they represent, these inanimate objects do not escape the ravages of time.
I photograph mannequins after they have become individuals. As they become “flawed” and reflect their experiences, they more truly represent us. In these photographs I interpret our reactions to our own aging, varying from profound sadness and isolation to acceptance, bravery and stoicism, to attempts to repair and arrest the effects of time. Often I alter skin tones and features to reflect more closely my own skin color and to create ethnic diversity where there was little.
These damaged facsimiles of ourselves are mementos of the transitory nature of perceived physical perfection and a reflection of the human experience. The aged mannequins are a reminder that each one of us is also uniquely marked and changed as we journey through time.