All images © Larry Torno
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All images © Larry Torno

IN THE PROJECT ROOM at the Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis, photographer Larry Torno presents a new series of photographs titled “When is a Doll not a Doll?” The series began during the summer of 2007 when Torno was offered the opportunity to photograph an extensive collection of a vintage American toy: the renowned Barbie Doll. By experimenting with composition and light, the artist infuses “personalities” into otherwise lifeless plastic, and the photos of the famous figure evolve from simple documentation to a kind of portraiture. Although it is impossible to deny the semblance of personality that Torno has captured in these photographs, he explains that these images are not truly portraits because the human qualities necessary to impart insight into character are absent in the plastic figurines. The spectator may have a hard time believing this, however, given the convincing attitude and ambiance that accompanies the icon. His photographs are enhanced by Barbie’s breadth of genre and depth of style, as there is always another posh model waiting for her close-up. Through these vivid images of the timeless figure, Torno liberates Barbie from her box and places her again into the realm of the imagination.

The exhibition corresponds with the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Barbie Doll. Barbie, created by Mattel co -founder Ruth Handler, was unveiled at the American Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. A fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Kara Krekeler accompanies the exhibition.

All photographs © Larry Torno, St. Louis