Love DollsPerfection, rejection and the fear of being unloveable. The images shown were part of a larger photographic project concerning Love & Loss (The Day After This Night : Love and Loss in the Orient - Further information, including exhibition review and book link under the gallery below)
I meet a man of my age. He designs and makes ‘Love Dolls’. Full size replica women, made of silicon.
He is clearly not just a business man, there is a passion in what he does. I ask whether I might visit the factory and photograph them. He generously suggests that however good a photographer I might be, I need to understand that they are very difficult to photograph well. “You must understand”, he explains “that if you have only just met them or they are not yours, they don’t want to be photographed”.
On one basic level, these dolls are about sexual gratification. However, considering some cost in excess of 100,000 Yen, they are not a casual choice of companion. The doll’s creator slowly works with the client to visualise their dream companion; a range of eyes, hands, nipples, feet, faces, ears, hair, skin tone, heights, outfits and yes, those more discreet female regions are available for bespoke order.
These dolls become loved, are well kept and in some instances, become part of a family of dolls. The owners presumably creating a dream world. One where he can become the man (the lover?) that he always wanted to be; it is an imaginary world where he is safe – he can’t be emotionally hurt.
My companion finally acquiesces, and he agrees to take me to the factory.
His assistant acts as a translator. She is perhaps 30; her mother is Filipino and her father Japanese. She is totally exquisite, and I am hardly able to take my eyes off her. Fortunately I am given the frequent opportunity to keep staring as I need listen to the translation.
She studied prosthetic design at college, and wants to make full size aliens and half-men-half-monsters for the film industry. She shows me her creations on her iPhone. They are incredible. Think of films such as Aliens or any number of Zombie movies, and you can picture them. It is a difficult industry to succeed in, she explains, especially with the prevalence of CGI.
A real goddess that desires to create grotesques. I endeavour to offer wise counsel and nod my head empathetically; whereas my only thought is “we could always elope”.
At the showroom, a range of ladies sit in various poses – each one looking blankly at me. It is strangely unnerving.
I’m encouraged to touch one – I lift her hand. I find myself apologising to the doll for having disturbed her hair.
You can take the Englishman out of England.
The images shown were part of a larger, three year photographic project:
The Day After This Night: Love and Loss in the Orient
Exhibition Review – Please Visit>
To view extracts from the book – Please Visit>
All images & text Copyright Michael C Hughes