Lexi, Lindenhurst, NY, 2012 by Ilona Szwarc
Gillian, New York, NY, 2011 by Ilona Szwarc
Maya and Leeyla, Northport, NY, 2011 by Ilona Szwarc
Jenna, Groveland, MA, 2011 by Ilona Szwarc
Tiffani-Amber, Lido Beach, NY, 2011 by Ilona Szwarc
Ilona Szwarc was born and raised in Warsaw, Poland. In 2008, she immigrated to New York City, where she currently lives and works.
Her work examines gender, identity and beauty in the context of American culture.
Szwarc has had a solo exhibition at Claude Samuel gallery in Paris and has been shown in group shows internationally - in London, Bilbao and New York. Her work has been featured in numerous publications worldwide including TIME, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Telegraph Magazine, Surface China, PDN. She has won PDN 2012 Annual in the Personal Category and has been awarded Grand Prize in the Fine Art category of the PDNedu 2013 contest. She been selected for American Photography 28.
Her project "American Girls" has received worldwide recognition, having been highlighted in The New York Times Lens Blog, MSNBC Today.com and The Huffington Post.
American Girls is a series of portraits of girls in United States who own American Girl dolls. When I first came to US the phenomenon of the American Girl doll immediately caught my attention. Photographically it was a beautiful image - girls with their sculptural representations, their twins, their avatars. I realized that their design embodies contemporary cultural values. They were conceived to be anti-Barbie toys modeled after a body of a nine year old.
Each doll can be customized to look exactly like its owner, yet all of them really look the same. American Girl dolls offer an illusion of choice therefore an illusion of individuality. Despite they play a crucial role for girls in a moment when they are forming their identity. With a wide variety of miniature accessories, a doll hospital, a doll hair salon with personal stylists they are perhaps the most luxurious toys ever invented.
American Girl product defines and categorizes American girls - future American women and that fact raises important questions about who gets represented and how. Branding behind the doll perpetuates domesticity and traditional gender roles. I examine how culture and society conditions gender and how it invents childhood. Gender becomes a performance that is again mirrored in the performance of my subjects for the camera.