Opening this week at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago is the first major survey of acclaimed photographer Laurie Simmons. Laurie Simmons: Big Camera/Little Camera encompasses four decades of her work, including film and sculpture, in addition to her photographs. Known for her close-up images of the world of dolls, Simmons has long used her lens to critique gender roles and idealized visions of American prosperity and domesticity. By making small objects the central focus of her works, Simmons manipulates our sense of scale and of what is important and worthy of artistic attention. In this way, Simmons makes the personal, the small, and the intimate, political objects, bringing a feminist message to her domestic scenes.
Simmons became interested in photography as a child, and after art school worked briefly as a photographer for a dollhouse miniature company. This experience, as well as purchasing a collection of old toys, would shape her career. By creating intimate vignettes for these objects and combining them with other props, Simmons used the toys she recognized from childhood to explore themes of gender stereotypes and how images influence our lives. Her Walking and Lying Objects (1987-91) series brought inanimate objects to life via a pair of slender, feminine legs, drawing a comparison to how the female body is objectified in the media.