Documentary photographer Niaz Maleknia brings us an in depth look into the world of love dolls and their owners, giving us an alternate view of the industry and the stigma around it.
‘Play with Me’ is a photographic exploration of the world of love dolls. It offers the viewer a glimpse into the home of a doll owner and shows the healing properties of dolls and play. The doll is in part a commodity, a possession, an object of desire, a friend, a lover and an obsession. She is dressed, adored, spoilt and played with both sexually and innocently.
You are invited to enter into the Los Angeles factory where humans create these perfectly formed replicas, which are subsequently sold for upwards of $10,000.
The love dolls help some owners to overcome trauma and provide comfort and connection in a time when people are finding their match through swiping on screens. These perfect objects also embody power and worship. They are both worshipped as they sit on their throne and at the same time are under the power of their owners. They can be dressed and have different heads in order to meet the needs of their owners. The love doll phenomenon is a different take on post human relationships, with an emphasis on tactility and affection.
This project does not aim to show the pleasures of having a doll as being perverse, a fetish or even solely sexual. It aims to show the affection that the owners have for their dolls and the way in which they bring them to life. This is further demonstrated in the online doll forums and the profiles which the owners create for their dolls. The text in the story offers further immersion into the love doll world and a chance to hear the stories, thoughts and fears of these exquisite plastic beings, as understood and interpreted by their owners.
The texts allow the viewer to get a sense of the loneliness that these owners experience and the hope that these dolls could be real. As one doll said, ‘If I could have one wish, my wish would be to become fully human and whisk LB off to a luxury hotel in beautiful surroundings with room service. We’d just stay in bed all Christmas Day, eating, drinking, watching crappy repeats and making merry’.
Play with Me shows you the beauty of the dolls, the way they are handled by their owners, and it visually reduces the dolls to the body parts in the factory where they are made and created much like Frankenstein’s creation. Many owners claim that turning to these dolls is as a result of the cruelty of the nature of flesh-and-blood women and the loneliness they experience.
"I’m Lisa Emily Page, I’m 28, I’m a Lisa deluxe modal and I’m from Cambridge, I went to boarding school there. I live with my partner North now. I’ve been with North for over 6 months and I can’t imagine life without him. Since we’ve been together, he has looked after me and has repaired my heal, foot and arm, handy having a man that’s good with a needle."
"Yeah hello there, I’m Natalina, I’m very petite, but still very cuddly. My big Sister takes good care of me and we both take care of Loverboy. As you may or may not know my Sister is a bit of a naturalist, she likes hanging out naked and doesn’t give a …...We both thought we’d start this chat room for any dolls who want to join in and chat. One thing I would say is we are not your average doll. We are both created for sex and we love it."
"I’m 28 but in real time 4 years old. The first time I tried to make my owner happy was when his father got cancer. I hope I did my best. It was a hard time but cuddly time. And 3 years later my owner bought a Tina Deluxe. She wasn’t so pretty as me so she transformed to a Vicky Deluxe with new Vicky eyes and blond hair. so now he is crazy in love with her and I’m not the first one. Nowadays I’m a little sad about that but may in future we can have a bigger bed and may play all 3 of us. sorry for bad English."
"Hello fans, my name is Nicole. I am a sexy, plushy celebrity topless model, superbabe and actress. I often appear in Lust Magazine which is usually to be found in the Hotspot for obvious reasons. My age never alters, I have been 21 since I joined the Forum. I have very expensive tastes with clothes, accessories and wigs but that’s no problem as I can wind Mr. Dongo around my little finger. I started as a lap dancer and worked my way up to a top(less) model so I am what’s called a Teddy Babe with attitude!"
"Mr Kats is very kind; I know he loves me, but we have to be car