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Matthew_Rolston_07Matthew Rolston, Joe Flip, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_04Matthew Rolston, LeMare Head I, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

For Talking Heads, the Vent Haven Portraits, celebrity photographer Matthew Rolston focuses his gaze on an unlikely set of performers, honing in on the faces of ventriloquist dummies dating from the 1800s and into the 20th century. Since their illustrious but mostly forgotten careers, the dummies have found a sanctuary in the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. As the only museum of its kind, Vent Haven houses an estimated 720 papier-mâché and wooden figures, each with distinctive features and histories. After convincing protective museum curator Jennifer Dawson of his kind intentions towards the often misunderstood dummies, Rolston was given singular access to the dolls.

Resuscitated from an inactive retirement by Rolston’s camera, the dummies are printed on enormous five feet by five feet exhibition prints. At times, they become an exaggeration, a heavily made-up caricature of human emotion, but more often, their sensibilities are softly seen and stirringly understated. At their breathtaking print size, they emerge like strange deities, possessed of a divine wisdom that is alternately comforting and unsettling. No longer governed by their creator’s ventriloquism, it appears as though they are eternally on the brink of one final utterance, some profound sentiment that cuts to the heart of their humanity.

Talking Heads was recently exhibited at Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, and the Talking Heads monograph is available here.

Matthew_Rolston_12Matthew Rolston, Barnaby, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_14Matthew Rolston, Anonyma Boy, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_01Matthew Rolston, Jonathan Jones, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_02Matthew Rolston, Uncle Eddie, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_03Matthew Rolston, Noisy Crachini, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_05Matthew Rolston, Guthrie Boy, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_06Matthew Rolston, Elmer III, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_08Matthew Rolston, Ditty Talk Hawkins, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_09Matthew Rolston, Pancho, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_10Matthew Rolston, Goldston Head II, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_11Matthew Rolston, Tango Teddy, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_13Matthew Rolston, Joe Nemo, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_15Matthew Rolston, Irish Policeman, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew_Rolston_16Matthew Rolston, Hook Boy, from the series “Talking Heads.” © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Images © Matthew Rolston 2014

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