(Re)Constructing Bodies - Zackary Canepari's Art and the Real Girl

Mannequin heads

An image series of Real Dolls from photographer Zackary Canepari's blog

No, this isn't a photo-essay about the box of human heads found on a Southwest Airlines flight last June.  But it's still a bit creepy.  The ominous and evocative image above is from series of photos by Zackary Canepari, documenting the construction of Real Dolls - anatomically correct mannequins that run about $6,000 for those in the market.  Not safe for work content after the jump.

Real Dolls assembled and clothed with undergarments

An image series of Real Dolls from photographer Zackary Canepari's blog

You may remember the 2007 independent film, Lars and the Real Girl, which brought these otherwise obscure pieces of paraphernalia into the public eye.  The quirky romantic comedy (with its PG-13 rating) rather skimmed over the sexual associations/use of the dolls in favor of a banal and sweet story about a lonely and socially maladjusted guy who just needed some company.  But in this series of eerie photographs and short "documentary" video (bottom), photographer Zackary Canepari unearths a fragmentary and artistic approach to the life-size sex toys.

The images are uncanny and reminiscent of forensic labs or anatomy lessons.  The rows of feet and teeth, framed by soft-focus, negative space, serve to disassociate the objects from the bodies they will be attached to, recalling notions of mechanization and assembly line production.


Despite how realistic the body parts may seem, the metal studs and exposed plastic remind us that these are manufactured, constructed objects.  And, as a woman, it's somewhat unsettling to consider that creator Matt McMullen is literally building female bodies at the behest of male consumers. 

However, Canepari's images, and especially the film, focus on the artistry involved in the creation of these "women."  Regardless of any dubious or unresolved feelings I might have about the dolls' use, each one is unique, and their life-like quality isn't achieved without a certain craftsmanship.

faceless real dolls hanging from chains

I think that the images do evoke a kind of horror in objectifying the body. The photo above is especially serial killer-esque with its faceless plastic skulls and bodies suspended from the ceiling.  And yet, I find it strangely compelling and beautiful at the same time.

In the video (below) Canepari interviews Matt McMullen, casting the creator as a skilled artist deeply invested in his creations.  McMullen explains that he began with an interest in making a mannequin that was somehow more real than display models - something with curves, not super-model skinny. 


"Honey Pie" from Zackary Canepari's video website

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