I Like A Leica #7: Mannequins

Photographing mannequins is, in a sense, similar to photographing dolls, and can seem unsettling, even unseemly. After all, a mannequin (or a doll) is a representation of a living person that is highly stylized but which also broadcasts its lifelessness as a means of commercializing that stylized representation. Artists have exploited this contradiction and the discomfort it generates for years and to great effect, so I don’t feel the need to do the same, since it’s been done so well already by others. The images in this week’s “I Like A Leica” post, in other words, are more or less documentary efforts: street photos of subjects that refuse to move.

First up are a couple of shots done in the West Village in Manhattan outside a shop full of vintage wares and odd antiques. The deliberately posed female mannequins in the front window are dressed like recently reformed ladies of the night; I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to think they’re strippers from New Orleans or characters from a midnight movie, but they make a striking pair.

Two Sexy Mannequins by Chad Gayle (Image)

Seductive mannequins in the West Village (Leica M6, 50mm Summicron, and Fuji Acros film) FLICKR

This and the accompanying frame were done on Fuji Acros film, which has a delightfully creamy texture even when it is scanned. Unfortunately, it also has horrible film curl and a tendency to confound even a dedicated Nikon scanner, so I don’t shoot with it as much as I used to. Have a look, however, at the detail Acros records, just as good or perhaps a little better than Kodax Tmax, which has more apparent grain:

Close crop of Two Sexy Mannequins by Chad Gayle (Image)

Detailed close crop of seductive mannequins in the West Village (Fuji Acros film)

I have no idea who would want to buy a terra cotta statue of a uniformed policeman who seems to have been modeled on some sadsack from a Seventies flick, but in New York, everything is for sale. This stiff fellow was stationed outside the same vintage shop, on the street, where he must have weathered sunny days and snowstorms for years and years. Thus the wrinkles and cracks in his helmet and shirt.

Sad Policeman Statue by Chad Gayle (Image)

Sad policeman in the West Village (Leica M6, 50mm Summicron, and Fuji Acros film) FLICKR

Next is much more commercial, slightly abstracted photo of the legs of Mannequins posed in an H&M store on 86th Street on the Upper East Side. The reflections of shops from the opposite side of the street came out nicely; this frame was shot with Kodak Tmax 100 film and developed in XTOL.

Mannequins Legs on 86th by Chad Gayle (Image)

Legs of H&M mannequins on 86th Street, Manhattan (Leica M6, 50mm Summicron, Kodak TMX-100) FLICKR

Sometimes a mannequin is creepy precisely because it is so poorly made, as is the case with these cheap heads sporting wigs in an East Harlem wig shop. This image was made with Ilford HP5, a film that is worlds away from Acros (a bit like a sloppy version of Kodak Tri-X, but it is cheap and easy to shoot).

Bad Wig Heads by Chad Gayle (Image)

Wig mannequins in East Harlem (Leica M6, 50mm Summicron, Ilford HP5) FLICKR

That’s all for this time. We’ll be back in October with more “I Like A Leica.”