Shirin Adhami graduated from Amherst College in 2001 with a dual degree in religion and fine arts, concentrating in printmaking and Persian art, and is currently pursuing a diploma in photography at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, part-time. She was a fellow at the Mead Art Museum and a part of the AmeriCorps program in Providence, RI, working with high school students in the arts. Adhami has exhibited at Providence’s AS220 and International Gallery and Gallery X in New Bedford.

Featured online is a stunning portrait series focusing on customers from her mother’s doll shop in Milford, MA. Traveling mostly to their homes, Adhami asks her sitters to pose with one of their favorite or most meaningful dolls. Her resulting haunting, character studies reflect on the relationship of human to doll, a correspondence that sometimes appears to conflate and reverse. With this series, Adhami won the SMFA’s prestigious Karsh prize for 2005.

- Leslie K. Brown, PRC Curator

Click here for Adhami's resume


Anne McMahon
August 2005

Ri Anderson
July 2005

Jonathon Wells

June 2005

Lior Neiger
May 2005

Rania Matar
April 2005

Liz Daly
March 2005

Steve Deane
February 2005

Andrew Warren
January 2005

Jane Hesser
December 2004

Jessica Burko
November 2004

Amy Montali

October 2004

Luke Snyder

September 2004

Matthew Gamber
August 2004

Mariliana Arvelo
July 2004

Ken Richardson

June 2004

Julie Melton
May 2004

Marlo Marrero
April 2004

Erik Gould
March 2004

Mori Insinger
February 2004

Jen Kodis

January 2004

Amber Davis
December 2003

Paul Taggart

November 2003

Marla Sweeney
October 2003

Dylan Vitone
September 2003

Click here for more information
about the Northeast Exposure.



When starting this documentary project, I was examining the community around my mother’s doll store where I have worked intermittently for ten years. It is a community of which I was never a part; one which I loved and detested at once.  As Persian-Americans living in a predominantly white, suburban area, we were always the “other.”  The other, I have come to learn, is a conceived notion and an arbitrary division. The act of creating an other is an attempt to encapsulate someone into a single idea, and ultimately results in objectification.  Through a denial of all which does not conform to preconceived notions of what the other is, the subject is rendered motionless, like a screen onto which preconceptions are projected.  In my mother's doll store, I saw a profound illustration of humanity's need to create the other in the doll collectors’ desire to own motionless objects in the form of humans, and pondered the possibility that the doll was a sort of other. I felt compelled to ask if I could photograph the doll collectors with their dolls in their respective home environments.

Photography lends itself only too easily to objectify, deny motion and change, and project ideas. Initially, I had attempted to use my camera to scrutinize the "otherness" of those who had once scrutinized my “otherness.” However, after talking to the women and spending time in their homes during photo shoots, I developed a different approach to my photography.  I realized that my models as a whole do not conform to any specific type beyond their shared affinity for dolls.  Also, as I photographed, I realized I was not an outsider, but in this circumstance, a collaborator. Perhaps it was not I who was the other, but the doll.  I changed my approach in an attempt to challenge the seeming necessity to create an other in photography.

I came to view not only the camera as a medium for photography, but also my body as a performative agent in the experience of taking the photo.  The act of placing myself in homes to photograph my subjects became fundamental to my work. I look to the work of August Sander and Walker Evans in their straightforward social documentaries and compassionate approach to subjects in portrait photography.   I hope that each of my photographs tells a story of the collector and her situation from an anthropological standpoint.  I would like the viewer to scrutinize, ask questions, but never find answers. The photographs are an exploration, not a critique.  I do not hope to define the viewer’s opinions or knowledge of the doll world, but act as a vehicle for experience.

Shirin Adhami


Click on each image for larger version and caption.