Baby dolls are a pretty common item to have when you’re a child, and with their plastic heads stuck on stuffed bodies, you’d thankfully never mistake one for a real baby. However, if you’re an adult and are looking for something a bit more realistic, maybe you should learn about the Reborners. Photographer Jamie Diamond did, spending time with what she describes as an “outsider art-making community.” Made up of women, these largely self-taught artists make hyperrealistic baby dolls by painting over existing dolls, collect them, and even interact with them. Sometimes the Reborners keep their dolls; other times, the dolls are put up for “adoption” on eBay. Besides a creative outlet, these dolls can also help the women manage a variety of emotional issues.
…but that doesn’t stop these dolls from being a little unsettling and almost too realistic looking.
A collector’s room full of dolls, all of which have been repainted to look as realistic as possible. It’s certainly not a look for everyone, but for some, it’s a great hobby.
Diamond’s project with these women included not only finding the Reborners online, but also gaining their trust. The community is well aware that their hobby could be considered odd, but Diamond eventually got to know them, and learned how to create her own realistic baby dolls. Besides the detailed paint job, the dolls also have glass beads inserted into areas of the body to mimic internal structure, and are even scented to smell like a newborn. She spent nine months (of course) creating the dolls, and then, after photographing them, sold them.
Nine Months of Reborning
Diamond spent nine months creating these unsettlingly realistic-looking baby dolls. They were later sold.
In all, Diamond created three sub-projects in her work with the Reborn community: one, The Amy Project, involved painting dolls of the same model and face mold to appear as different ethnicities, and one, Mother Love, involved painting the dolls to resemble portraits of Christ in classical painting.
The Amy Project
This project had various Reborners paint dolls with identical face molds, turning them into a variety of different-looking babies with common features.
From Mother Love, a baby doll painted in the style of Raphael
The Mother Love project saw baby dolls (or, at least their heads) painted to resemble the faces of baby Jesus in classic paintings.
From Mother Love, in the style of Durer
From Mother Love, in the style of Bellini
“Depictions vary drastically from artist to artist, all ultimately presenting their personal, ideal representation of a singular figure,” Diamond explains of the Mother Love project, but the same could be said about all of them. Each doll becomes an individual, and, like any creation (maybe including children), reflects something about its creator.
From a distance, the dolls really look like live babies.
Diamond also photographed the Renborners themselves, posing with their dolls the way a a parent would pose with a small child.
While the concept of collecting and cuddling with a super-realistic baby doll might seem like a creepy hobby to some, the community of women who do so seem to take great pleasure in their craft. After working with the women of the Reborn community for so long, Diamond has come to appreciate the artistry of their craft:
“Working with the Reborn community has allowed me to explore the grey area between reality and artifice where relationships are constructed with inanimate objects, between human and doll, artist and artwork, uncanny and real. I have been engaged with this community now for four years and while working and learning from these women, I’ve become fascinated by the fiction and performance at the core of their practice and the art making that supports their fantasy.”
You can see more almost-real babies on Diamond’s website, and learn more about the Reborner community on this website, which is one of several.