December 12, 2013

Plastic Bodies. {Photos.}

Photographer Sheila Pree Bright aims to explore society’s relationship with cultural beauty standards in her series Plastic Bodies.

Plastic Bodies, a series of digitally manipulated photographs of multi-ethnic women and dolls, features fascinating images that morph human skin onto a toy figure.

Showing ‘the fine line that is often drawn between reality and fabrication in American culture,’ Mrs. Bright’s project examines Barbie as a cultural icon, and the way society views beauty and women of color, as well as standards of perfection as they relate to women globally. (Source.)


My daughter, Opal, Is four and she is thankfully still mostly interested in dollies of the heavy, floppy, cloth-bodied variety. She doesn’t yet own any Barbies, but she does have a Tinkerbell doll that looks rather like a hipster Barbie with wings.

When Opal picked it out, I couldn’t help but to think, “Really? Does she need to be so skinny?” It didn’t even cross my mind that the hair was an impossible combination of coarse and silky, that her skin was flawless. (Granted, a limitation of plastic, but still.) That her eye-shape is more akin to a dragonfly than a young girl.

There is no way my daughter looks at that Tinkerbell doll and thinks, “I should look like that.”

Is there?

Sheila Pree Bright shared more about her series of photos in an email to Huffington Post:

American concepts of the “perfect female body” are clearly exemplified through commercialism, portraying “image as everything” and introducing trends that many spend hundreds of dollars to imitate. It is more common than ever that women are enlarging breasts with silicone, making short hair longer with synthetic hair weaves, covering natural nails with acrylic fill-ins, or perhaps replacing natural eyes with contacts.

Even on magazine covers, graphic artists are airbrushing and manipulating photographs in software programs, making the image of a small waist and clear skin flawless. As a result, the female body becomes a replica of a doll, and the essence of natural beauty in popular American culture is replaced by fantasy.

Check out the video here.

There is surely more to it than the dolls. And the princesses and the models and the airbrushed magazine covers.

There are systemic cultural issues and standards of perfection that need to be untangled from the inside. Dolls are not the ones to do this.

Moms, dads, teachers, grandparents, mentors, big sisters and brothers, artists, creatives, men and women with big voices are the ones to do this.  

This photographer—Sheila Pree Bright—who succeeded in making a grand statement through a subtle artistic juxtaposition is included in that group of ones to do this.

They, she, we, are far more powerful than the plastic dolls.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Sheila Pree Bright

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