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Laurie Simmons

American Photographer and Filmmaker

Laurie Simmons Photo

Born: October 3, 1949 - New York City

"My work isn't specifically about my own story. Rather, it's a kind of idealized cultural memory of the position of women when I grew up."

Summary of Laurie Simmons

Laurie Simmons played a significant role in exploring the image and expectations of women in the post-war United States, using photographs centered around dolls and the domestic sphere to quietly subvert familiar models of feminine identity. Simmons was heavily influenced by her suburban childhood, often drawing from her own memories to create a visual universe characterized by a sense of the uncanny created through combinations of the familiar and unfamiliar posed to provoke, rather than to answer, questions about relationships between play, the domestic sphere and sexuality. After establishing herself as a photographer, Simmons used film as a means of further exploring issues of character; she has recently begun working with life-size figures taken from subcultures based around different types of dolls, allowing her work to develop in relation to changed understanding and use of women and toys in the twenty-first century.

Key Ideas

In focusing on inanimate objects, such as dolls or furniture, Simmons challenges the viewer's sense of power, giving the inanimate objects life and the ability to return the gaze, challenging objectification. Simmons' work can be seen as defying male traditions of viewing in the way through borrowing from established modes of representation and subverting them.
Simmons' work draws upon her childhood in postwar suburbia in order to explore the difficulties that lay beneath the image of the United States as promising domestic bliss through conformity. Simmons often uses children's toys as tools to reconsider the postwar celebration of the nuclear family.
Simmons uses photography to recorde and communicate scenes that she constructs, rather than as an end in itself. Simmons is attentive to constructing the worlds that exist within her images, often designing dolls and building sets, influenced by the Conceptual use of the snapshot, a form of image taken by an amateur, to communicate information to an audience.
Simmons distinguished herself from other members of the Pictures Generation through her use of nostalgic imagery associated with the home. Simmons' work probes the messages that are passed through families, rather than employing the mass-media aesthetic for which the group became known.
Laurie Simmons Photo

Laurie Simmons was born on the outskirts of New York City, in the beachside neighborhood of Far Rockaway, as the second of three daughters to a dentist and a housewife. Simmons spent much of her childhood in her father's dentistry office, attached to the house, reading Life and Look and watching tropical fish in the waiting room. The family were financially comfortable and had an active cultural life; Simmons has described her mother, Dorothy Simmons, as "an enabler, a housewife of her time," making it possible for her father, Samuel Ira Simmons, to pursue his interests in sculpture, comedy and music in the evenings and on weekends.

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