The Girl That Became a Doll

Once lived a mother with her daughter, Belle. The mother, Sorrel, was of an age where lines tainted her once flawless face and white speckled her once dark hair. Her hands were spotted and dry and her feet bore the casualties of fancy shoes, for once upon a time, Sorrel was very much a beauty queen.

Belle bore the youthful glow her mother once had. Her lips were plump, her eyes sparkled and her skin was soft. Recognising the familiar beauty in her daughter, Sorrel devoted herself to prettying up her daughter and flaunting her as a trophy of flesh and boned exquisiteness. Belle was decked in bespoke finery, her hair was heatedly coiffed in stiffened curls, her lips rouged and eyes drowned in kohl. She was manipulated and embellished in every way Sorrel had ever wished for herself.

But beneath the layers of lace and powder and lacquer, the real Belle began to fade. The warmth left her skin and the sparkle in her eyes dulled. Her skin hardened and spirit diminished. Sorrel was so occupied with her vanity desires that she didn’t even notice her own daughter, her flesh and blood, had become a doll, plastic and empty.

A series of photographs illustrating my self-written fairy tale The Girl that became a Doll. It is inspired by stories I have read and watched regarding trophy children, pushy parents and materialistic love. The idea that a parent can love something so futile, plastic and vain more than their own child. In the story, although the child is paid attention to, it’s not for her benefit but her mother’s and underneath surface of applied beauty, the child’s spirit diminishes and she becomes a mere doll, inanimate and reliant upon the manipulation of the mother’s hands.

These ideas also feed into and from my research into transformation and the uncanny – to turn from flesh and blood into the hardened shell of a doll’s body. The child becomes trapped inside this doll cocoon – an aesthetic memory of what she once was, but her inanimateness indicates she is no longer human, she has become a passive play thing for her mother’s wishes.

The doll has been made using newspaper, masking tape and wire and painted in gouache then varnished. Synthetic eyes, hair and eyelashes have been added and clothes have been hand-stitched. The photography has been taken and edited by Gloria Mason.