Simon Doonan and Matthew Rolston at the launch party for Talking Heads, The Vent Haven Portraits
A photography book and upcoming exhibition by noted celebrity photographer and filmmaker Matthew Rolston exposes the power and humanity of a very unusual subject: ventriloquist dummies. Using techniques developed throughout his career, an inspired Rolston photographed more than 100 dummies to create an intriguing series of head shots that reflect traditional, gimmick-free portraiture. The result of this project is the book Talking Heads, The Vent Haven Portraits ($75, Pointed Leaf Press). "This is as close as I can come to making a painting with a camera," said Rolston.
Dedicated to ventriloquism, Kentucky's The Vent Haven Museum, and its more than 750 dummies, provided Rolston's casting list. "I'm known for my work with entertainers, and after seeing images of the figures at Vent Haven, I couldn’t wait to ‘meet’ them. I love faces, and this was without a doubt one of the greatest casting calls I’ve ever seen, and with some of the most fascinating hair, makeup, and wardrobe of all time," said Rolston.
Certainly, Talking Heads has a lot to say about identity, eccentricity, celebrity, and ironically, humanity—topics with which Rolston is well acquainted. After all, he was discovered by Andy Warhol and began his career taking photographs for Warhol's Interview magazine. Since then, Rolston has shot for Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and Vanity Fair, among others. He's also a music video director, having worked with the likes of Madonna, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, and Beyoncé. Talking Heads, the Vent Haven Portraits is available now at Homer. 56 University Place, 212-744-7705
BY SIMONA RABINOVITCH PHOTOGRAPHY BY SYLVAIN GABOURY/PATRICKMCMULLAN.COM