03/30/2012 10:05 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Play Dolls, Dolls Play (PHOTOS)

Some years ago I came across a man at a swap meet in Olympia, Wash. who had seven or eight large cardboard boxes of dolls for sale. I say "dolls" but, in fact, mostly the boxes were filled with dismembered dolls and doll parts and pieces -- legs, arms, heads, hands, feet, torsos. It was a curious, slightly disturbing jumble made more so by the fact that the dolls and pieces all had some serious 'playtime' on them. Grimy, scratched and stained, heads cracked and dirty with eyes scratched or gauged out, fingers broken off, mouths disfigured. Not really familiar with the world of dolls, I, nevertheless, saw in the articulation of the faces and limbs of these particular dolls, some evocative refinement. That is, they did not look like the bland dolls of today. These dirty faces and body parts, partially because of their 'playtime,' had character. I was interested in the photographic potential of the collection and bought all his boxes for 25 dollars.

Over the years, as I began to post various images using the dolls I would hear from doll collectors who commented on this doll or that doll to suggest that they were 'classics,' 'collectibles,' etc. There was a slip of paper in one of the boxes that was 30 years-old with the address of a woman in Oklahoma who apparently repaired these classic dolls, and what I had bought was essentially her inventory of spare parts.

Photographically they lend themselves to endless images: portraits, still lifes configured with other objects, abstracted by assortments, juxtaposed and contrasted and posed to create a suggestion of a narrative. The only rule I have religiously maintained for the ongoing project is that I will not in any way 'modify' them to suit some particular image. That is, the dolls and their pieces continue to be exactly as I found them in the boxes.


Using the photo to movie application, I have built a few videos using the images of the dolls. To wit: "Guardian Angel of Abused Dolls"

To see more great photography visit HuffPost Exposure.