In American Girls, Polish born Ilona Szwarc photographs girls with their American Girl dolls, often in matching outfits.
Tumblr took me to Laughing Squid, which links to Szwarc' website and the full range of photos. You may need to hunt around his site (including his blog) to find all of the pictures. Here are some of my favorites:
Each of these photos tells a unique story, for sure, but there are commonalities (other than the obvious). Some of these girls look happy, some wary of the camera, some seem to bask in the attention they are receiving... but some look tired. Some look haunted. Imagine how they look off camera. Why are American girls so burnt out? There's a million answers to that question, but the messages that reach young girls about how they need to act, perform, achieve, and be "beautiful" probably have something to do with it.
I have some reservations about how the girls in these photo project were posed and positioned, but overall I think Szwarc is doing good work and I don't just mean the photography. Check out this excerpt from his website about why he has done this project:
"When I first came to US the phenomenon of the American Girl doll immediately caught my eye. It was visually striking to me to see that the girls chose their dolls to look exactly the same as they do. Just that is a very powerful metaphor for the world that we live in today. It embodies ideas of self-portraiture, narcissism and self-promotion as well as echoes such issues as cloning, mass production and consumerism.
I find it very disturbing that the product - the actual doll is called the "American Girl". It very clearly imposes the stereotypes about who the American girls are and what do they look like. Each doll represents a different lifestyle that becomes an intrinsic part of each girl's life. While working on this project I discovered that there are almost no girls raised in America who never owned an American Girl doll. I am examining the line where the product creates the culture and defines the people. With my camera I am defining who a contemporary American Girl is.
Coming from an eastern European background and seeing this is really seeing America at its fullest dimension. The abundance of choices, products and accessories - all this craziness can happen only here. The dolls looks are very unified, almost androgynous - which shows a great cultural shift from what Barbie's troubling appearance was. Each doll can be customized to look exactly like her owner, yet all of them really look the same. So they express individuality - just in a very democratic and politically correct manner. The photographs are a commentary on contemporary American culture."
What do you think of Szwarc's photography and his subject? Mull it over with The Counting Crows...