For photographers, an unusual subject

The Da Vinci Art Alliance’s latest exhibit asked Philadelphia photographers to use mannequins as
their subjects.

Judy Engle (left), and Irene Reinke enjoy “Mannequin.” Engle’s work was featured in the exhibit. | EVAN EASTERLING TTN

While walking from the Market-Frankford line to PATCO during her daily commute, Laura Storck began to photograph mannequins in Center City window displays as a way to pass the time.

The photos inspired Storck to see what other Philadelphia photographers might do with mannequins as their subjects, so she created and curated a photography exhibit called “Mannequin: A Group Photography Exhibition.” The exhibit, open until Jan. 31, is on display at Da Vinci Art Alliance, a nonprofit art gallery funded entirely by its members. The gallery is located at 704 Catharine St. in Queen Village.

“I am thrilled that I was able to leverage the mundane task of work travel into this exciting opportunity,” Storck said.

“I just find [mannequins] very quirky and interesting,” she added. “It is kind of fascinating to see how each window display is decorated. When I started putting the word out, and people were interested in the show, I just had no idea that so many people were interested in taking pictures of mannequins.”

Storck started planning the show last June, she said, and personally invited each of the 30 artists who were featured in the show.

“I was impressed with the show,” said John Baccile, one of the photographers featured in the exhibit. “I was pleasantly surprised to see the mannequin that I trash-picked for [Storck] had been adopted as the centerpiece and inspiration for her ‘Lauraquin’ entry.”

The exhibit was presented in an entirely white space, with dismembered mannequin parts perched on ledges throughout the gallery. The photographs—the show’s main attraction—varied in size and were set in frames chosen by the artist.

“The decision was made by each individual artist,” Storck said. “I left it up to them what type of mannequin image to submit.”

Storck said many aspects of the exhibit were centered around the idea that each artist has their own distinct style—a nod to her decision to let the artists choose the presentation of their work.

“I am just really amazed at the diversity of the images and the mannequins themselves,” she said. “I never really thought about it before I started this project. A lot of the mannequins look the same, but there is diversity out there. It is very noticeable that there are more Caucasian-looking mannequins than any other ethnic group. One of the photographers photographed an Indian mannequin. I didn’t even know they made those.”

Collage artist Judy Engle had two images featured in the show, although digital photography is still new to her. She purchased her first DSLR camera a few months ago, but has yet to take it out of the box.

The photographs featured in “Mannequin” were taken in a variety of mediums including DSLR cameras, iPhones, tablets and iPads.

“I began taking photos in 1987,” Engle said. “I was a dark room photographer for 30 years. Recently, I started shooting all over again with my iPad.”

“I think that I just recently started thinking about the messages that the mannequins are conveying and what it means,” Storck said. “A way to explore this, I think, in the future is what it says about body image. I just thought that was really interesting. What we see from the mannequins themselves, and how they are really different from regular people.”

Erin Blewett can be reached at

Video by Caroline Vana.

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