Artist Spotlight: Abigail Firth

In the transition period between childhood and adulthood, people begin to finalize their perceptions on where they came from. In Portraits of the Dollhouse, Abigail Firth captures narratives within an image by asking her subjects to stage a dollhouse however they please. For her experiment, she only invites persons between the age of 18-25. The settings leave behind a portrait that reveals something personal about the participants themselves.

Photo by Joseph Medina

“Psychologists use dollhouses with children as a safe space where really anyone can show how they’re feeling. It may be an example from the past or their wishes or a false reality.” says Firth. 

The dollhouse is left as a blank page with all the miniature components set aside. No two people react the same way. Some go for realism. Others are playful and fantastical. The stigma of playing with what’s traditionally regarded as a childish symbol is lifted as these subjects are engaging in activity that’s comparable to set designers working in cinema. 

Although Firth prevents herself from directly influencing the process, she keeps up a conversation in the hour or two it takes to complete a session. “What I’ve found is that a lot of people in this process start reviewing their past or feelings to me after doing this. As they’re expressing themselves with the objects, they’re also verbally expressing it as well,” says Firth

Abigail Firth
Photo by Joseph Medina

Every shot is vertical even when a landscape shot could reveal more of the room on display. This style maintains Firth’s perspective that these are actually portraits of the people she is collaborating with. One could observe that these images are reflective of Firth’s own sense of self and the society around her. She previously shot a series of her own dollhouse staging before beginning this project.

Firth says, “I started really getting into the fact that dollhouses are a false reality. Adults are designing these toys and accessories that are idealized. Adults are idealizing our own world to give to kids to play with and express themselves and set up their own version of what they think a home should be. These objects are so perfect and pretty. A lot of them have this feel of the 1950’s and 60’s when the family structure was different.”

Firth is a semester away from graduating but this is a project she’s taking on for personal reasons. She has the advantage of getting feedback on her project while she is still seeking her diploma. She is in atmosphere where she can become the artist she wants to be rather than only making work to make a grade.

The photos are titled by the person who staged the dollhouse scene. We're proud to present an excerpt of the series while it is still a work in progress. Stay up to date with Firth's photography by visiting her portfolio site. 

Photos by Joseph Medina
Header image design by Jason Lee