I had never planned to work on a project involving mannequins. Even though I found them interesting, I just never thought to write a book about them. This changed during a trip I took with a friend of mine back in 2015. The two of us were walking along State Street in Santa Barbara, California when an antique store caught our attention. Their store front was so colorful and filled with interesting things that we were immediately drawn in, as though strings were pulling us into the store. Once inside, I started to notice several mannequin heads perched on shelves and stuffed between other antique and vintage items. Each one was different. I was so enchanted by these busts that I started to take pictures of them with my phone. I didn’t touch or move them. I only wanted to show their beauty and uniqueness.
From that point on I began photographing mannequins whenever I saw them in an antique store. I also started reading about their history, and I learned a lot of things that surprised me about these fashion dolls. Mannequins have been used for thousands of years. In 1923, Howard Carter discovered a mannequin that matched King Tut’s measurements. During the 15th century, fashion dolls — which predated modern mannequins — served as ambassadors between European kingdoms as they demonstrated the fashion of the times. These figures were deemed so important that they were granted safe passage on the high seas.
Mannequins have always had a significant role in society because they reflect the societal standards and ideals of the time. Even though mannequins are still used for merchandising, most people overlook their importance. They are like the piece of furniture in the room that you are used to seeing so you pay no attention. The more I learned about mannequins the more I wanted to share this fascinating history with other people. I also wanted to bring increased awareness and appreciation for antique stores. Prior to working on this book, I used to view antique stores for people who really loved “antiquing.” I’m a minimalist, and I don’t collect antiques. However, I have found some incredible treasures that I have bought as presents and used for photography props.
Since I have been working on this book, I have developed a deeper appreciation for mannequins and antique stores. Most of the time when we get to look at something from the past, it’s sitting behind glass in a fancy museum. Antique stores give people the chance to own a little bit of the past. I have even purchased things for photoshoots because there was something about the item that resonated with me. I encourage people to visit antique stores because you never know what you may find. Also, I love the idea of supporting local businesses. Especially now, when so many small businesses are struggling, I hope to bring a little attention to these incredible places.