The Doll Project is a series of conceptual digital photographs that uses fashion dolls to embody the negative messages the media gives to young girls. Though it would not be fair to blame it all on Barbie, there have been many instances in which she has come dangerously close. I chose to use Barbie dolls because they are miniature mannequins, emblems of the fashion world writ small, a representation of our culture's impossible standards of beauty scaled to one sixth actual size. The little pink scale and How To Lose Weight book are both real Barbie accessories from the 1960s. They are recurring motifs in the pictures in the series, symbolizing the ongoing dissatisfaction many girls and women feel about their weight and body image. The dolls' names, Ana and Mia, are taken from internet neologisms coined by anorexic and bulimic girls who have formed online communities with the unfortunate purpose of encouraging each other in their disordered eating. With each passing era, Ana and Mia are younger and younger, and the physical ideal to which they aspire becomes more unattainable. They internalize the unrealistic expectations of a society that digitally manipulates images of women in fashion and beauty advertisements and value their own bodies only as objects for others to look at and desire.
I have also taken numerous new photographs for the series. I have to admit that before Flourish Studios invited me to exhibit the series at their gallery, I felt too discouraged to continue taking pictures. It was starting to feel like a waste of time. Back in 2009, I stopped taking pictures for the series so I could improve my photography technique, practicing my taking pictures of dolls in my collection in other settings, like the Miniature Art Show series.
I took other pictures of them too.
And then last fall, Flourish Studios gave me this amazing opportunity. My next obstacle was a financial one. The other reason I had not continued taking pictures for The Doll Project was the cost of the vintage dolls and accessories I wanted to use for the 1960s and 1980s scenes. I tried doing an IndieGoGo campaign and it was a huge failure. No one donated anything to it at all. I ended up funding everything myself, making a huge sacrifice for my art, forsaking shopping and other expenses. Among the props I finally was able to purchase were the reproduction Julia doll I needed (the first Black Barbie produced) for the 60s, and a miniature apartment for her, as well as a trio of late 1980s/early 1990s girls with fluffy bangs: Jazzie, her friend Chelsea, and Black Pizza Party Skipper. I am happy to say that the time, effort, and money I put into this phase of the project were worth it.
By my estimation, this project is two-thirds complete, as there are still a number of photos I have yet to take for it. Stay tuned for more updates soon.