preTenders.

Babies create strong emotions for the bearer, holder, and observer. I have discovered this holds true even when it is known the baby is not real.

I am photographing dolls that are created to look and like living babies. They are constructed and weighted to feel like infants, which includes a head that must be supported while in one’s arms. They are the most powerful objects I have ever worked with, I am struck by the strong and palpable emotional reactions they produce. They provoke the dominant biological instinct to nurture and the entire spectrum of human behavior.

There are roughly three main components to this series:

I have been photographing the reborning subculture of women who create and love these dolls. For several years I have been attending their conventions and events such as baby showers and baby beauty contests. Most of the women I have encountered who are part of this community are exceptionally loving nurturers and caregivers. They have an especially strong passion for babies and this is a method to keep them in their lives. There is a wide range of personal stories and motivations for being involved in this world. Some create or collect these dolls because they cannot continue to give birth to living babies, or have lost a child, or cannot have one of their own. Some women admire the art form and are doll collectors, others adopt and create nurseries in their homes and integrate the babies as part of their families and lives.

Carrie Fisher has been my primary muse with these dolls. She utilized her talents as a performer to create scenarios inspired by these artificial entities. I am in awe of her powers of transformation and her ability to express and create compelling, raw, and emotive scenes with these babies. Carrie drew from her dark humor, deep wit, and creative genius to construct scenes of a haggard homemaker, a bored mother, and a beautiful, sophisticated housewife, all the while acting out forbidden thoughts and impulses with brave intelligence. Her ability to perform as instinctively and without censorship for still photography as she does on the screen and stage has been a pleasure to capture.

The third part of this series involves the general public. I bring the dolls to different social situations and photograph responses. When I am with a “baby,” my status changes in the world, I am mother, grandmother, aunt: I am constantly approached and inquiries are made about my child. I always explain that the baby is not real, I inform them that this is a project. My photographs capture their reactions and are not staged. People take the baby and create their own narratives.

This series is the latest incarnation of my work that explores different aspects of artifice and our impulses to create illusionary objects and situations that fulfill various emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs.

© Rebecca Martinez 2017