When starting this documentary project, I was examining the community around my mother’s doll store where I have worked intermittently for ten years. It is a community of which I was never a part; one which I loved and detested at once. As Persian-Americans living in a predominantly white, suburban area, we were always the “other.” The other, I have come to learn, is a conceived notion and an arbitrary division. The act of creating an other is an attempt to encapsulate someone into a single idea, and ultimately results in objectification. Through a denial of all which does not conform to preconceived notions of what the other is, the subject is rendered motionless, like a screen onto which preconceptions are projected. In my mother's doll store, I saw a profound illustration of humanity's need to create the other in the doll collectors’ desire to own motionless objects in the form of humans, and pondered the possibility that the doll was a sort of other. I felt compelled to ask if I could photograph the doll collectors with their dolls in their respective home environments.
Photography lends itself only too easily to objectify, deny motion and change, and project ideas. Initially, I had attempted to use my camera to scrutinize the "otherness" of those who had once scrutinized my “otherness.” However, after talking to the women and spending time in their homes during photo shoots, I developed a different approach to my photography. I realized that my models as a whole do not conform to any specific type beyond their shared affinity for dolls. Also, as I photographed, I realized I was not an outsider, but in this circumstance, a collaborator. Perhaps it was not I who was the other, but the doll. I changed my approach in an attempt to challenge the seeming necessity to create an other in photography.
I came to view not only the camera as a medium for photography, but also my body as a performative agent in the experience of taking the photo. The act of placing myself in homes to photograph my subjects became fundamental to my work. I look to the work of August Sander and Walker Evans in their straightforward social documentaries and compassionate approach to subjects in portrait photography. I hope that each of my photographs tells a story of the collector and her situation from an anthropological standpoint. I would like the viewer to scrutinize, ask questions, but never find answers. The photographs are an exploration, not a critique. I do not hope to define the viewer’s opinions or knowledge of the doll world, but act as a vehicle for experience.
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