Ilona Szwarc – American Girls

“American girls” is a series of portraits of teenage girls in America who own American Girl dolls.



When I first came to US the phenomenon of the American Girl doll immediately caught my eye. It was visually striking to me to see that the girls chose their dolls to look exactly the same as they do. Just that is a very powerful metaphor for the world that we live in today. It embodies ideas of self-portraiture, narcissism and self-promotion as well as echoes such issues as cloning, mass production and consumerism.

I find it very disturbing that the product – the actual doll is called the “American Girl”. It very clearly imposes the stereotypes about who the American girls are and what do they look like. Each doll represents a different lifestyle that becomes an intrinsic part of each girl’s life. While working on this project I discovered that there are almost no girls raised in America who never owned an American Girl doll. I am examining the line where the product creates the culture and defines the people. With my camera I am defining who a contemporary American Girl is.

Coming from an eastern European background and seeing this is really seeing America at its fullest dimension. The abundance of choices, products and accessories – all this craziness can happen only here. The dolls looks are very unified, almost androgynous – which shows a great cultural shift from what Barbie’s troubling appearance was. Each doll can be customized to look exactly like her owner, yet all of them really look the same. So they express individuality – just in a very democratic and politically correct manner. The photographs are a commentary on contemporary American culture.
















More images on Ilona Szwarc’s website or on her blog. 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, production manager and special effects make-up 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 assisted photographer Mary Ellen Mark and currently she is working for Joel Meyerowitz.
Found on Artists Wanted, via Maria.