One Summer, about fifteen years ago, the man I was seeing took me on trip to London at my request. I wish that I could say it was one of the best times of my life. It certainly wasn’t the worst, but it was the first time I had ever travelled with anyone outside of my family anywhere, let alone across the ocean and that made me a little nervous. In the past when I’ve been in a foreign place I would often cling to things that make me feel safe or that remind me of home. I read books, listened to music or cozy up that trusty opiate of the masses, television.
At some point during our site seeing, we visited the design museum in London. He was into that stuff and at the time I was not. I would not develop an appreciation of design until years later, long after we had broken up. It was a museum of modern art which did nothing whatsoever for me in those days. We saw several floors of odd looking things I could not recall or describe to you before ending up in my favorite of all places in any museum, the gift shop.
I love museum gift shops. Let me loose in the Moma design gift shop and I can lose myself for about an hour.
It was in an assorted book bin at the London Design Museum gift shop that I first caught site pf a strange little photo essay entitled “This is Blythe” by Gina Garan. It peeked my interest because of the big headed doll on the cover with equally large eyes. In a way my discovery of this book sparked a latent interest in photography itself. In a variety of staged and found scenarios complete with wardrobe changes and odd captions and above all with a look of surly, melancholic intelligence, curiosity and worldliness was a doll unlike any I had ever seen before. It was so wacky it made my brain flip. The absurdity of it. The irony. I had always associated dolls with children and child’s play but GIna had re-contexualized everything I thought I understood about photography and dolls in those pages where I stood over a book bin in a kind of bizarre and delighted time stopping state of “what the fuckness.” It was like finding myself suddenly transported into a space that I liked but never imagined could exist and not being altogether sure where it was located. This was an adult using a doll to play with mature themes using humor, art, imagination and whimsy. I was hooked. It’s what I love most about that trip to London. And it had absoluetly nothing to do with Big Ben, red telephone booths or the changing of the palace guard.