"Translating Barbie's plastic proportions into human being terms is a favorite pastime of eating disorder activists and other anti-Barbie crusaders" says Lisa Jervis, editor of Bitch in a 1997 article in the ever popular left-wing rag, Mother Jones. So much has been said, indeed, about Barbie that she arrives out of the box with plenty of politically charged baggage and any photo of her is at first a reflection of this and only later an image to be judged on other merits. That said, it's as difficult to take a good photograph of America's plastic darling as it is to take a good photograph of the Eiffel tower. The busty wonder is the subject of many a freshman 101 assignment by many an incipient photographer thinking they're making a new and striking statement (the other cliche is running out to photograph homeless people -- the ubiquitiousness of this body of work has made it nearly impossible to do that well also).
What really hasn't been discussed enough, is the terrible difficulty of taking an interesting family photo. The bulk of Leica images I've seen are painfully dull studies of the family snapshot. One wonders why someone had to spend two-thousand dollars on a camera to take a picture of junior on a swing that has all the compositional merits of a mug shot. The real trick is to take a family portrait that a complete stranger will be interested in looking at. When you can do that, you've arrived.
So when Carly Jane asks "Which one do you want to be?" handing me a fist-full of Barbie's, she's asking a closet of questions with very complicated answers and presenting an excrutiating body of photographic difficulties, with equally unlikely fruition. You look at her, you look at her dolls, and you answer truthfully: "I'll be Brittny."
I didn't broach the subject of Barbie with Dick Gebheart.
[back to Put Your Money Where Your Leica Was!]