Time Stopping Thursdays: About a Doll

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.

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Reya, my customised Black Blythe Doll.

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.

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