Why BJDs?

Two mercenary men discuss their next job. Illustrated style in pinks and blues.

Hi friends. It’s been a while since I wrote a longer post about my process and inspiration for Takashima and my photography.

My original goal was to publish Takashima in September 2021. A number of life events intervened and there were months where I just couldn’t work on Takashima. Last month, I completed the first draft in graphic novel format. I’m waiting for feedback from one of my reviewers but expect there will be quite a lot more work on the second draft.

I wanted to share my thought process as to why I’ve used ball jointed dolls (bjd) for Takashima. At one point in my life, I wanted to go to film school, but that was outside of financial reach. Instead, I studied Technical Theater and created a variety sets, props, costumes and lighting. My favorite work was my Lighting Design final, where we were to light static objects. A still life. I wanted to tell a story and had a few friends hold specific poses when the lights were on then move into new positions during the blackouts.

In 1982, I received my first camera, a very basic SLR camera and kit lens. Most of the photographs I’ve taken over the years have been nature, barren landscapes and city scapes. I’ve always liked macro photography and shooting at unusual angles.

On their own, these photos were not very interesting, yet I continued to collect them with no known purpose. Just a compulsion to take them.

In 2009, I joined the bjd hobby and Den of Angels (DoA), a bjd forum. Hiro, the rigger in Takashima, was my first bjd. I found photographing Hiro to be not just enjoyable but stories started coming to me: what is he like, what does he do, where does he go. My bjd collection started growing and more stories developed.

I started creating photostories, a staple of the bjd world, but wasn’t satisfied with them. My home is too small to collect all the props and furniture to create the elaborate photostories I saw on DoA and envisioned. I continued to take photos and tried my hand at compositing images using Gimp but was not satisfied with the results.

In 2017, I found an offer for Sebastian Michael’s Photoshop Artistry and turned my attention to improving my photo compositing skills. All those weird photos began to make sense. I could use them to build worlds.

Two mercenary men discuss their next job. Illustrated style in pinks and blues.

As to why bjds? People apply emotional states to dolls. In all my years on DoA, I repeatedly saw people commenting about the image or images supported the story, made them feel, or how they imagined the dolls felt. Whenever I share my dolls with people, they do the same thing: create stories, names, adventures for the dolls, with no prompting.

Dolls bring out a sense of play and storytelling in people. Even when people find dolls ‘creepy’ they still bring emotion to them.

When it came time to update my old Lenovo ThinkPad, I chose an iMac. I’d reached the end of what I could do with Gimp. While the two programs are similar, Gimp doesn’t support use of Photoshop actions. I switched to Photoshop CC and and started experimenting with painterly actions. Once I got up to speed on Photoshop, I revisited Takashima. I was inspired to take the story outline and create a shot list.

I felt somewhat sheepish about developing my doll photostories. A woman of my age playing with dolls. However, in the past 2 years, my photo editing skills improved to the point where I can actually create the doll photostories I’d imagined. And I was inspired all over again to make Takashima reality.

Hacker punk man in an office, frowning. Illustrated style in pinks and blues.

That’s the great thing about dolls, specifically bjds: I can create stories with just words to propel the story forward. The viewer will fill in the gaps and add emotional context.

I collect, play with and photograph dolls because they inspire me like not other subject. I’m able to create entire worlds out of an assortment of images.

What inspires you? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.