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Photographer Jamie Diamond Immerses Herself Within the Subculture of Reborn Dolls

Troy

Troy, Nine Months of Reborning

Marilyn

Mother Marilyn

For Mother Love, New York-based photographer Jamie Diamond immerses herself within the subculture of Reborn dolls, true to life artificial babies crafted from materials like vinyl, doe suede, glass, and layer upon layer of paint.

The artist discovered the Reborn community while pursuing her self-portrait project I Promise to be a Good Mother, in which she used a doll to stand in for an imagined child. Behind these online collections of high end, expensive figures, she found a group of women hobbyists who worked from home studios. The process demands long-term commitment and passion, with each doll requiring dozens of paint coats and the careful insertion of each individual strand of hair into the scalp.

Most of these artists sell the dolls to other adult women collectors, who will often go on to play the role of its mother. The Reborn babies, Diamond explains, are crafted not only to resemble the real thing, but glass beads are also inserted into certain areas to mimic the physiology of living children, and they are frequently perfumed to smell like a newborn babe.

While Diamond initially struggled to contact Reborners over the internet, she eventually gained their trust by attending a convention in North Carolina. One year later, she herself learned the tools of the trade, building her own dolls and selling them over eBay from her own workshop, Bitten Apple Nursery, over the course of an appropriate nine months. Before she parted with each doll, she shot his or her portrait as a memento of the pseudo mother-child, creator-begotten bond that the process facilitates.

She also began two other sub-projects with fellow craftswomen, the first being The Amy Project, for which she asked a diverse set of Reborners to manufacture a doll from the same generic mould, chosen for its vagueness with respect to sex and ethnicity. These dolls, which she shot against a classic “school portrait” backdrop, become a strange classroom of romanticized and fetishized twins, each constructed to represent different fantasies of the perfect child.

For the final installment of Mother Love, Diamond selected nine art historical representations of the infant Christ, assigning some to herself and others to separate nurseries. Here, the artificial babies evolve from articles of personal sentiment into the realm of the iconic, becoming collective idols of the Christian God. As the dolls cease to serve only as playthings, or even as individually cherished objects, their severed busts emerge as signifiers of divine innocence, love, and wisdom.

Whether the dolls are presented as one mother’s beloved child or an incarnation of the Holy Spirit, Diamond emphasizes their ingenious ability to deviate from and to obscure objective truths. The babies, much like the photograph itself, convincingly feign reality without entering into it. No matter how seductive the notion of an eternally youthful, unchanging infant may be, and regardless of the emotions he inspires, he remains a work of fiction.

Mother Kyla

Mother Kyla

Mother Karen

Mother Karen

Mother Brenda

Mother Brenda

Ping 002

Mother Ping

Nine Months of Reborning Grid Display

Nine Months of Reborning

Coco

Coco, Nine Months of Reborning

Aisha

Aisha, Nine Months of Reborning

The Amy Project_Display

The Amy Project

Susan

Amy (Pudditats Nursery)

Tanisha

Amy (Sweet Face Beauties Nursery)

Staci

Amy (Kootenay Reborn Nursery)

Bonnie

Amy (Bon Petite Nursery)

Judith

Amy (Love is Forever Nursery)

Bellini copy

Whispering Lullaby Nursery / Bellini Jesus

Durer copy

Bitten Apple Nursery / Durer Jesus

Perugino copy

Bitten Apple Nursery / Perugino Jesus

Pessolino copy

Brown Nursery / Pessolino Jesus

rafael copy

Brown Nursery / Raphael Jesus

Verocchio copy

Whispering Lullaby Nursery / Verocchio Jesus

All images © Jamie Diamond

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