New York-based photographer Ilona Szwarc takes an interesting look into the relationships between young girls and their American Girl dolls. In her series, aptly titled American Girls, the photographer unveils portraits of “girls with their sculptural representations” which is meant to give us a visual sense of each of their personalities. The series, which is not at all affiliated with or sponsored by Mattel (the toy makers), is both revealing of each child’s characteristics and ironically layered, asking the viewer to look deeper into the meaning behind this mimicking trend.
The American Girl line was initially introduced as an alternative to the sexualized figure represented in dolls, the “anti-Barbie” if you will. The idea behind each doll is that she is a reflection of a girl in America, whether she be a simple schoolgirl in a uniform or a limber gymnast in training. However, it is perhaps the girls that are echoing their dolls who appear to offer the “illusion of choice and individuality” through fashion and accessories.
Szwarc says, “The American Girl product defines and categorizes American girls- future American women- and that fact raises important questions about who gets represented and how. The branding behind the doll perpetuates domesticity and traditional gender roles. I examine how culture and society conditions gender and how it invents childhood. Gender becomes a performance that is mirrored in the performance of my subjects for the camera.”