by Tamika Spencer
My fondness for photographing dolls derived some years ago from collecting them. Like many collectors, I started with Barbie dolls. Growing up, I only had a few dolls, but the love of collecting really started after my future hubby bought me my first collectible. Ever since then, I’ve been growing and maturing in my love for collecting and photographing dolls.
My introduction to Tonner dolls, in particular, started a while back. My hubby and I used to visit the FAO Schwarz store in Washington, DC and glare at the dolls I dreamed of eventually owning. I was very attracted to the tall, statuesque fashion dolls of Tonner as well as the old glamour of the Gene Dolls. Unfortunately, back then I lost track of collecting for a while but was reintroduced to Tonner a couple years later. My hubby and I went to a few comic conventions where he pointed out the Tonner Super Hero doll lines. He encouraged me to open my collecting/photography world a bit more. So once again he was responsible for making my wish of owning my first Tonner doll come true. A few months later I found a fiery, red-headed Tyler Wentworth doll that I fell in love with on eBay. The seller didn’t know much about her and neither did I, but I simply had to have her. She became my very first Tonner doll. While I named her Scarlet because of her hair, eventually I named many of my new dolls after the special women in my life to honor them. Including Micquelynn and Clara after my grandmothers and Cecelia my mom.
My third doll is very special because I got her on my birthday at the IDEX breakfast show two years ago. It was my very first doll convention, and it was an awesome experience. My hubby and I were able to meet Robert Tonner himself and had a fun conversation with him after the breakfast. He signed our dolls, but I was disappointed that I didn’t ask him to sign Happy Birthday, since it was on my actual birthday. But overall, best birthday in a while! After the show, we went back to the hotel, and I photographed my brand new Cami doll.
Most of my dolls are from the Antoinette line, since it is one of my favorites. Other favorites include the Cami and Jon line as well as the Sinister Circus. My hubby loves the Sinister Circus a lot. His favorite doll from my collection is the Glowing Muse Basic Honey, which we named Avril for her edgier look. She really did become my muse as I have more photographs of her than any another doll.
Collecting Tonner dolls holds a solid, cozy place in my heart, and I look forward to seeing what new, exciting creations come up in the future. I am also looking forward to taking some repaint lessons for dolls. My hubby and I love anime and would like to repaint dolls with an anime twist. I am also planning a project that is inspired by my mom’s home land of Trinidad and Tobago and there Carnival Festival.
The method behind my photography is really laid back. I am usually inspired while listening to music or staring at the clouds outside my window. The changing of the seasons always brings fun shoots to work on as well. I use a fairly old Nikon camera to shoot with. Sometimes I incorporate various lighting set-ups, but for the most part, I use natural lighting. I spend some time working on the photos in Adobe Photoshop, which can be frustrating but very rewarding at the end when you have a shot that you love.
This photo [the pic of the week] was taken while the hurricane was running crazy all over the east coast a couple weeks ago. It was raining hard, super windy and cloudy, but there was still a small amount of natural light coming through the window. This was also before the electricity went out. Anyway, I picked Cami (Penelope) just for fun. I loosely styled her hair by rolling it into a loose bun, and I let the rest of her hair hang down. Although I make my own jewelry, the hair piece is actually an earring piece I broke apart to make another piece of jewelry. She is wearing a simple beaded necklace that I made and a white fake fur scarf cloaks her.
There was a piece of advice that I took to heart after I attending the Photography talk at the Tonner Convention this year. That advice was to try different angles. To just go for it, and I did with this shot. I posed her and angled the camera which produced this shot. I am truly honored that you like my work. It makes it all worthwhile.
Wow, such a wonderful introduction to Tamika (though if you remember we did highlight a photograph of her’s before, just above). We really look forward to seeing so much more from her, so much atmosphere and feeling in her eye I’m sure you’ll agree. Thank you so much Tamika for sharing yourself and your photography with the Tonner family which keeps on growing. Our collectors inspire us as much as we might inspire them! Every week we pick a photograph of the week from all the fantastic shots that are uploaded to our Facebook page, and we want to bring the story of the photograph and collector to you if we can. “Believe in the power of Play” means Believe in the power of each other.