When the photographer Aline Smithson found an old, discarded doll from the 1970s, she was touched by his seeming unlovability; his bald head and uncannily wizened features made him unsuitable for most children. Like a lost boy, pitied for his strangeness, the doll found a home behind the artist’s camera. In rich and moody gray tones, Smithson constructs a visual narrative of poignant self-discovery, titled The Lonesome Doll.
The doll’s distinctively his floppy, childlike body works in tension with the firm face of an older man; in choosing to shoot him in black and white, Smithson heightens this drama, creating a dreamy, nostalgic atmosphere. The doll, no longer a boy and not yet a man, exists in a anxious state of perpetual adolescence; where he sits bolt upright in his bed as if woken by a child’s nightmare and dressed in a footed onesie, he also cautiously explores his sexuality, his oversized fingers grazing the shining nude body of another doll. Similarly, he submits to the caresses of a disheveled barbie.
Smithson’s doll is touchingly outcast by his own awkward existence; more mature than his companion toys, he must act out his fantasies with smaller, less ornate dolls, pressing their lips together, his wide-set eyes spit between each figure. He’s too small for the dollhouse, weighty for the clothesline. This strange adolescent is woefully confused, just verging on the point self-awareness. When stuck in a washing machine, he pleads for release, his stunned face reflected in the floor below. Take a look.
Smithson has created from these images a beautiful book that tells a poignant story of hope and love. She is currently looking for a publisher.