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Mariel Clayton –I’m not a man-hater


First, let me make it clear that I’m not a man-hater, I don’t advocate violence towards anyone, let alone men, on the whole, I rather appreciate them. I’m not psychologically scarred or disturbed or tormented – I’m just a doll photographer with a subversive sense of humour.

I’m originally from South Africa, when I was 12 years old and on a school field trip to a Rhino park, my friend and I ventured way too close to a group of them in pursuit of the perfect shot. After giving our teachers and the rangers massive coronaries all ‘round and being summarily ’disciplined’ for it, I had a bit of a realisation that I loved the thrill of getting ‘the picture’, trying to retain a part of that moment.

Given that the price of film in South Africa was roughly on a par with the price of the most illegal of narcotics, it was never something I could easily pursue growing up, beyond the occasional splurge on a few rolls of film for special occasions. I was never into ‘happy snaps’ though, the usual mundane cheesy shots, and I’m still not ( as you can tell) – my biggest pursuit is to tell a story, even in the most miniscule way.

Once I came to Canada, a lot of things became possible, most especially when it came to travel opportunities. That became my focus and passion – to travel wherever I could get to and document it. My first little sojourn was to Europe, armed with the best little SLR camera I could afford ( by todays standards, most disposable cameras would outstrip it, but it was my joy ) and 20 rolls of film – when I came back, I was up to 50 rolls and a major addict of photography in general.

For the last 7 years that was my goal, to keep travelling and taking pictures, in the hope of one day having them be appreciated and enjoyed ( or, dare I say it, maybe even having someone from on high descend and offer me a job at National Geographic! ). I took a job at a travel agency to supplement both my addictions, and I’m still there today, only with a slightly better set of camera gear now.

It was a bit of a fluke how Barbie got involved, and definitely not something I would have considered even in my wildest dreams ( and my dreams are pretty freaky ).

On my very first visit to Japan, when I was scrounging around a toy store in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, there was a display set up with tiny miniatures made by a company called ‘Re-Ment’. Absolutely perfect replicas of pieces of sushi and traditional regional Japanese quisine – it made for the perfect souvenirs and I picked up the full set.
The more I travelled around – the more of them I saw, so I kept on adding to my little collection for when I returned home.
Once I got back – I looked them up online and saw the range that they had available, and became an avid collector.

About 3 years ago Re-Ment started producing a ‘House’ meant for dioramic displays of their miniatures, of course I picked one up. I set up a ‘scene’ as soon as I got it – but it was for display, and just languished on a shelf, gathering dust with all my other touristic detritus.

After I ordered a full set of ‘Bathroom’ miniatures. I was sorting through them, and some random psycho synapse fired in my brain. I had a picture in my head of Barbie, dead in a tub having committed suicide after Ken left her for another man. It struck me as being really really funny. The next day I went out and bought a Barbie doll and a Barbie bathtub and a tin of white spraypaint ( I hate pink, always have ) and after waiting 4 days in between liberal coats of paint to cover that lurid pink, set up her ‘death scene’ in my little Re-Ment house.

I’d done pictures with Barbie before, being tortured by my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, dismembered in a bowl of noodles or a bento box – but those were with some type of ‘artistic’ intent, having Babs top herself in the tub was just pure fun, something I thought my friends might get a kick out of too.

I’ve always been outspoken in that I have no love lost for Barbie dolls – I still don’t think that it’s the most suitable toy/role model for girls, and as I’ve done these pictures, am realising that I’m not the only one. My personal feelings towards the toy aside, these pictures are just a bit of weirdness, my attempts at humour. People either get it or they don’t.

There’s no message involved, no hidden agenda or manifesto, no secret subliminal stance on genders in general… it’s just damn freakin’ funny.

Mariel Clayton

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