Photo Essay

Behind the Hobby

Stephen

This project consists in the analysis, documenting, and understanding of people and the objects they collect. Being part of this hobby myself, I am interested in documenting doll collectors, their dolls of choice, as well as their stories and connections to one another.

The underground world of Asian ball-Jointed dolls has yet to be discovered by the media. The amount of customizing that goes into these dolls, like changing their eyes, make up, wig, clothes , and body parts, shows how much of the person's character goes into each doll they own. Some see their dolls as children, some see their dolls as toys, some see their dolls as expensive display objects- this is not a cheap hobby.

I am interested in showing the world what goes into this hobby, and what a great variety of people are part of it. I have met old, young, male, female, and everything in between.

My strategy is, and has been, to contact doll collectors via the internet, and shoot their portraits in the studio.

This hobby does not exist without the internet, because dolls are manufactured in several locations throughout Asia, and the only way to purchase them is through online shopping services. So my main communication method is the internet, through online doll forums and communities. I've set up accounts in several of these forums, and I opened my own website to showcase the results of this project.

For the doll owners, having their photos taken is not as exciting as meeting the other owners; sharing experiences about the hobby is something that they look forward to in these photo shoots I've been scheduling.

I have spent a year trying to group collectors from the Central Florida area, as well as a few owners from my hometown in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I've obtained successful results. My series consists of shooting the doll owner with their many dolls- most have more than one- and then asking them to chose one doll for an individual, doll-only portrait. The doll of their choice often reflects their tastes, wishes, and personalities.

There are several more photos in this series, and I wish to eventually publish a book containing all of them. The world of Asian Dolls is huge, and it has been a fantastic experience to meet and photograph all of these collectors.

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