For the past five years, I have been photographing a book project, created for adults, but presented in a children’s book format. The idea for this project came about when I discovered an odd looking doll, created in the 1970’s, that didn’t seem to fit with other toys. He was too adult to be of comfort to children, too severe looking to fit with toys and teddy bears, and had too much character to be ignored. I began to photograph this doll in juxtaposition to childhood pursuits, thinking of him as an everyman (or every child) who was discovering his place in the world, and more importantly, discovering the idea that one can’t truly love others until one learns to love oneself.
Several years into the project, the memory of my favorite childhood book, The Lonely Doll, bubbled up and I realized I was revisiting familiar territory—black and white photographs of a doll on an adventure. This discovery added a new layer and focus to the work and I had a clearer vision as to look of the final project. The book, now titledThe Lonesome Doll, is a nod to the book Dare Wright created half a century ago.
There is something haunting about this doll—he has incredible dignity, yet expresses a sadness and a loneliness that feels almost human. I began to see him as a symbol for those who don’t quite fit in, live a lonely life, but continually search to find a connection to the world. He exudes pride when the object of ridicule, struggles to find in his place in an undefined world: he’s a man, not a boy; too real for the other toys and too strange to be loved by a child. But when he finds himself (in this case, other dolls that look like him), the world opens up and he realizes that happiness is right in front of him.
As a mother and champion of the overlooked and the innocent, I see the importance of telling universal stories that remind us of our humanity and our heart.