Mark Nixon is a Dublin-based photographer known mostly for his portraiture. But it’s his portraiture of non-human objects that really hits home. Behold Much Loved, Nixon’s series focused on documenting the teddy bears, stuffed bunnies, and various other plush toys of our collective childhood.
Nixon’s own infant son inspired this work. It was the child’s unfaltering affection for his Peter Rabbit doll that sparked Nixon’s interest in exploring the emotional connections we form with our childhood toys. Much Loved takes the form of a survey, a typology of dolls accompanied by a brief profile detailing the name, age, height, and history of the doll.
Despite their lack of animacy, the portraits of these dolls elicit some strong emotional reactions. With eyes missing, heads barely attached, and fur rubbed almost completely away, these teddies are physical embodiments of a life fiercely loved. And though it may be a simple artifact of the aging process of fabric, you can’t help but read into the looks in their beady eyes: this bear has been pampered for 30 years, but this bunny’s heart broke from being abandoned for a cooler toy and forgotten in the attic. Their bodies tell a story of growing up, evoking a tender nostalgia for our bygone innocent days and the bittersweet effort of holding on to them.