By: Alexis Guerra
Photographer, Mariel Clayton, has an eye for the unconventional. Armed with a simple Canon 50D and a twisted sense of humor, Clayton turns unassuming inanimate iconic objects, into thought-provoking works of art. Her style borders on the macabre but beneath it all lies an artist who is truly gifted at her craft.
Questions with Mariel Clayton:
A.G.: I read you’re a self-taught photographer, what inspired you to pick up the camera and has it always been a passion of yours?
M.C.: When I was 12 years old I went on a school trip to a Rhino park in South Africa, and my friend and I were nearly gored when we got too close! I think it was the exhilaration of that, combined with the thrill of just taking pictures that started everything. I’ve always been more into travel photography though – that was my passion for a long long time, until the dolls came along.
A.G.: You photography is pretty edgy and features every body’s favorite blond bombshell, Barbie! Why dolls and how did you come up with idea to put such a well-known icon in such compromising positions?
M.C.: I started collecting miniatures before I started photographing dolls, I’m surprised it took me that long to put two and two together and take pictures, really. One day I had made a diorama for display, and then twigged onto the idea that I could put barbie in the scene, like a snapshot from a movie – and it went on from there.
I like shooting dolls because I find they’re more expressive than people. Just the smallest gesture speaks volumes. I chose Barbie because she is one of the most iconic children’s toys there is. Everyone can relate to her and what she represents, and everyone has their own interpretation of who she is - so I think it’s a bit more impactful that way. Plus it’s funnier with her.
A.G.: How long does it take to set the scene for your camera shoots?
M.C.: Depending on the complexity of the scene, anything from 5-8 hours – I like to spend time making sure that everything is placed just right and fits into the scene. I think the longest I worked on shots was for my ‘Hystoria’ series – where I tried to make as much by hand as I could, so those took quite a while, approximately 20 hours for each one.
A.G.: Which collection is your favorite and why?
M.C.: I think so for it’s my ‘Hystoria’ series – because those took the most work, and are the most ‘artistic’ of all my shots. As much fun as I have with the ‘torture’ shots, I appreciate the Hystoria ones more, because I generally have more of an artistic vision with them, rather than just a visual gag. Right now I’m working on a series called ‘Lyric’ which are interpretations of song lines ( generally from the Beatles ) which I really think is working.
A.G.: What has the response been to your work?
M.C.: Generally it’s been very very favorable and positive - most people seem to ‘get’ the joke and understand that it’s meant in jest, and it’s not a real commentary on anything. There will always be detractors, that’s just normal – but for the most part I am learning to ignore them, because it’s usually due to a misinterpretation of the pictures. For the most part – people find them as funny as I do!
A.G.: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
M.C.: I honestly have no idea – I never look that far ahead. Maybe it’s bad future planning on my part – but life never seems to co-operate with my prognosticating, so I don’t even think 5 months ahead, I play everything as it comes.
To check out more of Mariel’s visionary work click here.