Children + Family

Portraits of Girls and Their Dolls

June 5, 2013

By RF Staff

Kayla, Boston, Massachusetts, 2012. Image © Ilona Szwarc.

New York-based photographer Ilona Szwarc's images of girls posed with their American Girl dolls, at first glance, are eerie. Perhaps it's because the miniature dolls are often replicas of their human counterparts; perhaps it's because the children have taken on the appearance of adults in their demeanor.

Leah Joi, Brooklyn, New York, 2012. Image © Ilona Szwarc.

Jenna, Groveland Massachusetts, 2012. Image © Ilona Szwarc.

In this series, Szwarc explores the relationship between children and their toys and how these objects become part of a girl's identity as she enters adolescence. The dolls, which debuted in the mid-80s and are representative of first-world privilege, can be customized to look like their owner down to the outfits they wear, which was an interesting phenomena to the Poland-born Szwarc whose work often explores gender-roles (and specifically femininity) in contemporary American culture. Szwarc's most recent series, "Rodeo Girls," features young girls ages two to 19 who compete in rodeos in Texas.

Lexi, Lindenhurst, New York, 2012. Photo © Ilona Szwarc.

Sisters Maya and Leela, Northport, New York, 2012. Image © Ilona Szwarc.

Emerging Photographer featured a longer article on the photographer in the Fall 2012 issue.

An exhibition of the series, titled "American Girls," opens at Foley Gallery in New York City today and is on view through July 3.