Ilona Szwarc couldn’t help but notice a curious trend while wandering Fifth Avenue with her camera. Everywhere she looked, little girls were clutching miniature, and often well-dressed, versions of themselves.
Inspired in part by photographers who have used dolls in their work — Laurie Simmons and Hans Bellmer, among others — Ms. Szwarc started taking pictures. She focused on the American Girl line of dolls, which are sold in a large store on Fifth Avenue.
The bustling street, though, didn’t feel right. And so she began approaching girls, and their parents, to ask if she could photograph them at home, in a more comfortable setting. Planning to shoot with a 4×5 camera, she knew she’d need to find patient subjects. So she sought out aspiring models and actresses, or girls whose parents saw them that way.