Access was the hardest part: first, I was afraid Dirk would say he didn’t want his photograph taken. Then, I was even afraid of Jenny—that she would say to Dirk that she didn’t want her picture taken either.
This series is about a man, Dirk, who lives with his silicone doll, Jenny. Dirk and Jenny have been living together (happily) for four years.
Dirk first decided to buy Jenny because he was suffering from a breakdown and feeling extremely lonely. Dirk had been in serious relationships on two other occasions, so what he was really looking for was companionship. As I quickly saw, the doll had become a true partner, not just a sex toy.
Indeed, Dirk has developed a complex emotional relationship with Jenny. He is able to hear her, talk to her, and perceive her soul. The doll gives him an important sense of security; Dirk says he cannot live without her. He’s really happy now. I can’t fully understand it, but he is happy.
At first, I was concerned about exposing him. Their entire shared daily life takes place only inside their apartment because Dirk does not know how strangers would react to their relationship. Still, he was not as closed off as I feared. Dirk has friends, some of whom even know about the relationship. He only makes sure to keep Jenny a secret from his child, who he doesn’t think is ready to know just yet.
So, Dirk allowed me into his space, but still, I was nervous. Although he and I got along very well almost immediately, I felt afraid to go to his home and meet Jenny. If Jenny told him, “I don’t like her,” it would be over.
My other fear was that it’s so easy to take bizarre photos. It was difficult to put both subjects on an equal level. But if I were really going to empathize, it was important to see Jenny as more than just a doll—I had to see what Dirk sees and loves.
Quickly, however, I entered into his world. One time, Dirk put Jenny in bed for an afternoon nap and I found myself beginning to talk very quietly, so as not to wake her. Afterwards, I thought “What am I doing?!”—but just like that, I was seeing the world through Dirk’s eyes.
I’ve become quite attached to Dirk. Sometimes I find myself defending him. People just don’t understand. What is so bad about what he’s doing Why not? He’s not hurting anyone.
What is normal?
—Sandra Hoyn, Alexander Strecker
Below, you can see the slideshow that Hoyn shared with the audience at the World Press Photo Award Days in Amsterdam. Amazing work!
Editors’ Note: You can find more of the work from the winners of this year’s World Press Photo in our selection of 8 Great Series from World Press Photo Awards Winners.
Or you can see the work of all of this year’s winners in our World Press Photo Awards 2015 overview.