Missing Post

I just found this entry in my draft box and forgot to finish it from the Spring. It had been some time since I wrote something. I have been dealing with both physical and psychological health problems in between finding the ability, the motivation and the inspiration for creating. Nonetheless, there has been a few creative moments including new photo sessions of Dollface as well as a portrait drawing session. Our shoots have been of us together now. At the beginning, when I first created her, I looked at her as a replacement of me. I didn’t feel the desire, as much, to photograph myself for my serious work and felt whatever I need to say could be said with her. However, I became so attached to her, even “transmitting my soul into her” that, especially during these difficult times, she could be my sympathetic sidekick or perhaps, rather empathetic. She feels what I feel and it’s so important for me to have that right now.

After re-reading the above, I have to update that I am in the process of making a book of images of her and have a new idea that continues the partnered photographs of the two of us in an even more surreal way. Meanwhile, see below this drawing that I did of her from “life” as well as one of the photos of us together. I have updated my website to include more so please have a look and if you want to subscribe to my newsletter, you will actually receive more active updates than on here!

In My Face

This post is not art-related, I fear and while my blog, overall, is written for myself, from time to time, I like to share some of my “insights” and thoughts with others in order to not feel alone. It is really that, for us, isn’t it? We, who as a society are selfish and feel self-important when in the end, are we so important? Forgive me in advance if this post is a bit disconnected but I am trying to get my thoughts organized.

I am an extroverted introvert. I do like meeting new people within certain realms but overall, I am not good with people. Blame my parents, my terrible childhood and early adulthood and add that I prefer my own company (and that of my husband) and animals to others, on a whole. Having said that, I have respect for people – all people regardless of color, sex, age, or culture unless they are The Stupid. I can not deal with The Stupid, though that runs rampant (or is it amok?) more and more as I get older. Or maybe I just tolerate them less.

Since moving to France, I have become even more isolated and intolerant of The Stupid. While I have a couple of dear friends back in the US, I haven’t been able to connect wholly with anyone here. It could be the language barrier, though I am improving some there. It could equally be a cultural thing, and/or it could be an age thing. However, my statement still stands true here, now that I am living in Europe – that I respect who I can. The multi-cultural, multi-religion, multi-everything is more evident and that is more than fine with me. It makes the world more interesting when there are differences in others.

I also am a big fan of peace and non-violence. Really. Even with The Stupid. My rule is to turn away from them as much as possible. But…this one moment with Them, that I am about to share, was impossible to escape.

My husband and I were on our way home from our vacation last week. We were tired, having had dealt with The Stupid – either those that work for the public transportation system or those of the Tourist variety. We were on our last bus that took us fairly directly home. 5 minutes on the bus and a young African woman with her baby stroller got on. Based on the little I understood, an altercation began between her and an Arabic woman, presumably over the space taken up by the baby stroller. The argument escalated. It got loud with screaming and a very immature exchange (one was mimicking the other, repeating everything the other said, very much like a child would). Then the words started flying “Racist!” “Terrorist!” Other passengers got involved. I shouted to the bus driver to do something. He sort of yelled to calm down but no one heard him. More people got involved with the shouting when the next thing I saw was a physical fight break out complete with a man choking a woman. With this, 1 woman and 2 men jumped in to try and break it up yelling to the bus driver to stop the bus and open the doors. He finally did and the original 2 that were fighting as well as the man doing the choking were off the bus and perhaps others but I couldn’t see.

The bus went back on the route and all I could do was shake and cry at what I had just witnessed. My husband tried to calm me but all I could see was the choking, the screaming, the hateful words. It brought back memories of when I was hit and yelled horrible things to because I was fat during my childhood. I thought of how bullying could lead to death either by the bullies or via suicide. Racism is bullying. The woman that was being choked could have died. Someone in that fight could have had a knife. We could have been in the middle of it and been hurt or dead.

Some of you reading this may be unaffected. Perhaps you live or have lived in a place where what happened is commonplace. Maybe you, like me, have a form of PTSD that would be triggered with seeing something like this. Or maybe you agree with what happened. If you do, I am sorry for you. No one should ever be in a situation like that – either fighting for nothing that leads to violence, or just the violence on its own. So many thoughts are running through my mind as I write this. The women starting the fight- what psychological history do they have to take something as stupid as taking up too much space and turn it into such a racist and violent thing? Was it inevitable that it would turn into a racist thing? Was the stupid argument just a pretext to the prejudices that ran deep in them?

Growing up in the US, and as it continues, racism seems to have a clearer divide – black vs. white, for the most part (there are always exceptions). Here in Europe, it isn’t so clear as evident in what I witnessed. The multi-cultural does not always want to Be. The multi-religion the same. The divide continues instead of mixing together to be One. But there will never be One. In my opinion, it is not a divide of race, religion, sex or culture. It is a divide between us and The Stupid. And I am sad about it, going further back into my introverted retreat.

An Epiphany

I would like to share with you, dear readers, of how strangely my brain can work. I was folding up a tissue to throw out when I remembered an art teacher from my grade school days teaching us origami one day. My heart had leapt when she announced that we would be making an origami camera. I don’t remember now what the process was but this was when I was, perhaps 10 years old, before photography fascinated me enough to have an interest in it. The thought of that origami camera and the excitement I felt which led me to ask myself, once again, “how did I get interested in photography and more so, how and when did photographing myself really become a deep-rooted need?”

I thought back to that time when I was 10 years old. I am the youngest of 3 girls and over the years, looking at family photographs I noticed and then remembered that my mother didn’t care much in taking photos of me. There are very few photos of me as a baby and it seems that, aside from communion photos and school portraits, any photograph that had me in it was intentionally made for family and almost all of those had my mother in them, or my sisters/other family members.

My mother was not a kind woman. my earliest memories of her mentally abusing me was around that age of 10 – when I began to gain weight and her angry, hurtful words toward me grew and lasted up until my adulthood when I gained the courage to shout back… though she continued to insult me until the end of her life. She was also a jealous woman. Her life didn’t turn out quite the way she wanted, so she took her frustrations out on her children.

And then here comes a sort of parallel – there are the photographs of her from when she was young woman…which were plenty. She was also the youngest of 3 girls and she was ignored by her family (but not abused) so the numerous photos of her, dressed gorgeously, hair done, posing began around the age of 18. She was a vain woman and perhaps because her marriage and her family were not quite perfect, she became jealous of those that she deemed were. She craved attention and sought it out however she could including, at a later age, dressing sexily, flirting with men and always needing to have her picture taken.

I remember reading, perhaps from Susan Sontag’s book On Photography, that there is a certain perceived validation to being photographed; that when someone asks to take our photo, it makes us feel special, desired, beautiful. The act of just admiring us is not enough but to immortalize us on film, pixels, etc. is “real validation“. I know that I begged my mother to take photos of me when I was a child and I remember how annoyed she would get when I asked. It seemed that she never wanted to take photos of her child (unless she was in those photos) and I never had the love and real validation of feeling beautiful from the one person that mattered at the time. I craved it and I craved attention. This craving led to me growing up, flirting with and ending up in toxic situations with men, gaining and losing and then gaining a lot of weight and my self-esteem could not have been any lower.

Her need for attention became my need for attention.

So, while in university studying photography, I finally found the excuse to have photos taken of me. Not by others, though….and that still holds true. No one desires to photograph me and why should they? I am taking enough, more than enough in the last 25 years that no one needs to. It had became a hunger, a need because I needed the validation that I was beautiful. That I was loved and damn it, if no one was going to give it to me, I might as well give it to myself. What I am writing here goes beyond my written artist statement and is as honest and open as it can get.

That need still exists but it has since calmed. I am almost 52 years old and have had a difficult life. I still struggle greatly with my weight and looking at myself in the mirror and in photographs still make me critique my appearance. However, there is a level of self-acceptance and a point when other things take importance and it becomes exhausting to focus on that one aspect of me. If I continue to photography myself until I can’t anymore, I hope some of those photographs include some wisdom or a feeling of “settled”..to not have that need for that kind of attention anymore. I hope.

As this year ends…

I know I do not “blog” often enough. Perhaps there isn’t enough of an audience for me to do so or perhaps it is that I am more focused on creating and promoting my artwork rather than share my daily or weekly reflections.

In any event, it is now almost the end of the year. And what a year it has been for all of us. I can only speak for for me though, and say it has been very difficult. Since 2019, I have gained some weight due to depression, stress and the beginning of menopause and this has caused me to have many pain problems in my back, legs and feet. More than usual, I should say. Add to that, Paris had a transportation strike from the Fall of 2019 through the beginning of 2020 which led to me losing a lot of work and then COVID. I lost almost the entire 2020 in terms of work and the few lock-downs made my physical and psychological state more difficult.

In light of all this, some of the schools I pose for regularly were able to pay me for planned dates that were canceled. In addition, I was able to take advantage of working via Zoom as model. It has been strange in many ways – posing nude in front of a laptop almost as if I was doing cyber porn and limiting as well since the format of the laptop camera is horizontal, having to force my poses to be in a horizontal space all the time. Then there was/is the Wi-Fi connection problems, which have thankfully been only few. However, in the Spring, I had enough artists participate each week to make some money. Not so much now during this second lock-down but I do have a few artists each week, nonetheless. On a different note, I was able to see free concerts by some of my favorite musical artists whom I would never have been able to see in person due to location or money and I was able to re-connect with old friends via Zoom which was also very nice.

Artistically speaking, for my followers and readers that already know, the birth of Dollface happened and I must say that she has truly been a lifesaver this year. Between creating her, making improvements/modifications to her, making her costumes and props and just taking moments to hug her hard, have made the difficult times more bearable. I will be making a new update on my website soon but you can go and see some of Dollface now.

Lastly, because I have had many people loving my images of her, I have decided to re-open my Etsy shop that I had some years ago called The Pre-Raphaelite Fae. I am selling limited edition prints and postcards of selected images of Dollface in addition to some of my older self-portrait works and my illustrations such as the below of a barn owl. If you are interested in purchasing something AND before Christmas, I suggest placing your order ASAP. Because I am shipping from France, and there are some COVID delays, I want to be sure you are able to get your orders in time. I am offering 10% off introductory orders of 2 prints or more and a special surprise gift with orders over 100€.

So, I would like to end this blog post with a bit of hope. I want to wish all of you, my readers, a very joyful and loving holiday season filled with laughter and good food. For those of you who may have lost someone this year, either to COVID or anything else, my love goes out to you even more. To the rest, reflect on the positive things that did happen during this difficult period and let us all look toward the new year. Vaccinations will soon be made available, even if we need to be cautious at first. And I know that if we can look at things and each other differently from before, learning something new about how we spend our time and money, then things will get back on the right track.

Thank you so much for reading this and supporting me and my art.

Dollface Continued

First, I would like to say that work from the new Dollface series is up on my website now so if you are interested, here is the direct LINK to the page.

I am deciding how to proceed with this project because I would like to use her long-term. At the moment, I am just taking ideas in my head and shooting but there should be categories in the future like interior/exterior, black and white/color, Mythology/Personal Symbolism….I just have to keep shooting to see how the themes evolve, I think. At the moment, I am in the process of gathering materials to create an actual interior – a bedroom more than likely. Eileen Arnow-Levine, an illustrator/book maker and multi-media artist whom I know, inspired me as she has been creating a dollhouse complete with the most amazingly detailed miniatures. While I will not be going to those lengths, plus Dollface is not miniature, measuing at 50cm (almost 20 inches) tall , I have some ideas in the works.

I did create a new costume for her recently, though and we did a couple of shoots with it. Here is a medieval-inspired chemise and “corset” over-dress that I since changed the lacing on.

And here is a new piece entitled “What If”:

Lastly, I would like to share this short process video I made of another shoot I did with her. A lot more work goes into these shoots than ones of me. For one, I can pose however I want and I don’t need to use pins or supports. She doesn’t have a face, naturally, so all of her expressions must come in the form of grand (even not so grand) gestures in her poses. So, I have to bend her arms and the wired spine I have attached to her to get them. Interestingly however, sometimes after I am finished manipulating her and plop her somewhere, she then takes an emotion that didn’t come through before.

Readers, I hope you will follow me on this new journey. There is definitely a sense of ease to not be in front of the camera for awhile. Perhaps I can say that it is done for me to be so but nothing is ever certain.

Introducing Dollface

Dollface was born from the COVID lockdown. The only connection I can make with the two is that the lockdown gave me the time to really bring out my inner child. It started with a clothespin fairy that I made, seriously out of fun and boredom. I don’t consider myself crafty at all simply because I don’t have the perfectionist skills needed to make something presentable and a lack of patience in other areas doesn’t help. Well, I took my little fairy doll and took a few phone photos.

And after I had a laugh, I thought about my short time in therapy and the psychology of using dolls as ourselves to act out traumas. I didn’t create Dollface for that exact reason but the thought of creating a doll personae of me was appealing. So, I spent hours, days with just my ideas and no actual online DIY help to create her and then with a little online help along with a wonderful dressmaker friend’s gift of fabric scraps, I’ve begun making costumes for her. I did have patience there having to sew everything by hand, not having a sewing machine. Plus, the act of sewing has created a sort of meditation for me.

I created her without a face so that the expression comes from the interpreter. In addition, my face has always been my best feature and I exploited that with my expressions in my photographs. I wanted to take that out of the equation. Having a doll take my place felt like a natural direction after years of wanting to to create self-portraits that were not so obvious.

The name Dollface might not sound very inventive but Dollface was an endearing name my maternal grandmother used to call me when I was a child and one I will cherish so it made sense to call her that. In fact, I am not embarrassed to say that I often hug her and there is a good feeling I get from her so yes, she is therapeutic. She is also fun to pose and play around with and of course there is humor in the photos. However, given that I am using similar themes and symbolism to my previous work, I want some sense of seriousness here and perhaps I can take her further than I could with me. In the meantime, I am having a great time creating costumes and scenes with her. I even took her to Paris yesterday for a shoot.

I will be uploading a number of images to my website soon. As I have been on a “self-portrait journey”, I only find it fitting that this will be The Adventures of Dollface”. 🙂

New Update

Je suis désolée pour le retard. Honestly, it has been a long time since I have posted on here, simply because I am still not sure how necessary this platform is. If I didn’t share the link across social media platforms, I think it would sit here unread. Bref.

Oui, je fais un mix entre français et anglais c’est parce que je me prépare pour une exposition collectif en mars qui sera à Riedisheim – le sud d’Alsace près de Mulhouse. Je montrerai 12 images de ma série Les Peintures ainsi que donner une présentation sur mon travail de 20 ans. Et oui, je la fais en français! Yikes. Si vous voulez venir et obtenir des informations, contactez-moi! C’est les 14 – 22 mars!

Screen Shot 2020-02-06 at 14.50.10

In addition, I am slowly working on a new project and back to the classics. It started with this image “The Fall of Icarus” and now Caravaggio, DaVinci and others are haunting me. And I am back to strong contrast. It’s been awhile for that.


Et voici une dernière que j’ai pris aujourd’hui. J’aime jouer avec draperie et contre mon corps, il fait de beaux plis dans le tissu. And how awesome is that light?


N’oubliez pas de vous abonner à mon newsletter de mon site – http://www.annmarietornabene.net pour les mises à jour mensuelles, les nouvelles et plus. En anglais et français. 😉




More shameless art promoting

I created an inexpensive print-on-demand book via the photo lab I use in Paris, to sell to people interested in my latest series. So far, I sold 2 (just ordered them this morning) and I will offer them here as well. The price is $18 plus shipping per book outside of France (c’est 15€ par livre plus livraison en France) and the best form of payment is through PayPal as it is the easiest. Someone in New York said that she was not comfortable using PayPal but I can assure everyone that it is safe and secure. I used it for everything involving moving money around. Besides, the banks charge a big fee for money transferring and I can not get checks here. So, if you are interested, email me.

In other news, I have a YouTube channel, in case no one knew. I don’t advertise it much because I am not as confident with my video work as I am with my still photography. For one, they are really utterly self-indulgent. Yes, self-portrait work can be but in recent years, there hasn’t been a lot I have done that meant anything other than music video type of things. Still, from 2013 and back, I did create some more expressive work. A few days ago, a fan and follower of my work for many years, subscribed to my channel and it was when I realized that I actually had 80 subscribers! That sounds like nothing to many people but it is a whole lot more than I thought! So, I started promoting the channel, hoping to get 100 subscribers and giving the 100th person a free print of my work. Problem is that while I do get the notifications of who has subscribed, I have NO idea how to contact the 100th subscriber other than making him/her public. So…I will do that then. I will make a little announcement video of who my 100th subscriber is and what he/she gets for free. So here is my channel. Subscribe! 😀