Ilona Szwarc | American Girls
American Girls is a series of portraits of girls in United States who own American Girl dolls. When I first came to US the phenomenon of the American Girl doll immediately caught my eye. Photographically it was a beautiful image – girls with their sculptural representations, their twins, their avatars. I realized that their design embodies contemporary cultural values. They were conceived to be anti-Barbie toys modeled after a body of a nine year old.
Each doll can be customized to look exactly like its owner, yet all of them really look the same. American Girl dolls offer an illusion of choice therefore an illusion of individuality. Despite they play a crucial role for girls in a moment when they are forming their identity. With a wide variety of miniature accessories, a doll hospital, a doll hair salon with personal stylists they are perhaps the most luxurious toys ever invented.
American Girl product defines and categorizes American girls - future American women and that fact raises important questions about who gets represented and how. Branding behind the doll perpetuates domesticity and traditional gender roles. I examine how culture and society conditions gender and how it invents childhood. Gender becomes a performance that is again mirrored in the performance of my subjects for the camera.
Ilona Szwarc was born in 1984, in Warsaw, Poland. In 2008 she immigrated to New York City where she currently lives and works. Prior to moving to US Ilona was working in film industry. Her credits include working as a set photographer, special effects make-up and production manager for feature films, commercials, music videos, video art, TV series and theater. Her credits include working with directors: Jonathan Glazer, Roman Polanski and Andrzej Wajda. Ilona has worked for photographers Mary Ellen Mark and Joel Meyerowitz.