(All photos: David Parise/Vintage Barbie and Ken Photos)
Barbie and Ken on the beach, doing yoga. Barbie and Ken with snorkels, underwater. Barbie and Ken in black tie, in the lobby of Miami’s Fontainbleau Hotel. These images are the quirky creations of David Parise, a photographer who takes a humorous and nostalgic look at the world of Barbie.
Atlas Obscura interviewed David Parise about his photographs, the appeal of Barbie and Ken, and timelessness of 1960s clothing and design styles.
How did you start photographing vintage Barbie & Ken?
In 2009, it was Barbie’s 50th birthday and my wife and I were living in Miami at the time. I came across this book which was a chronology of all her and Ken’s fashions over the years. As I flipped through the pages I came across the outfits from the early 60s. I was amazed at the quality and details of the clothing. I worked in the garment industry in NYC for many years, and always loved fashion. I also had been a hobby photographer for over 30 years and was always admiring the work of other photographers who shot miniatures. I began tossing around the idea of photographing the vintage dolls in their original outfits with the Art Deco hotels and the beautiful Miami Beaches as a background.
How do you choose the settings?
I love the beaches one because they are virtually timeless. It could be 1960 or 2015. Its also the place that people remember the good times they had as a child. The beach I found out was just easier to create perspective when there is little reference in the background. I also like using the original vintage furniture that was made for the dolls back then and creating a scene of that era.
Where do you find the dolls and the original 1960s outfits?
In the beginning I searched online and found many vintage folks and outfits on Ebay. Once I was hooked I searched other resources like private collector websites.
What’s the appeal of the 1960s Barbie & Ken?
At first I was worried about Barbie’s bad connotation she has had over the years as a negative role model for young girls, but actually no one in six years has ever mentioned that. I sell [photographs] on the streets of New York now, and I hear stories all day long: “I had that doll and that dress” or “my grandmother passed them down to my mom and she let me play with them,” all with smiles and that same nostalgia that I have of the 1960s.
Do you have a favorite, and why?
One of my favorites is “Girls Smokin’ by the Pool”. It’s an homage to my mom and her sister sitting by the beach club pool smoking away back in the day. I also love the kitchen series; the colors for the original Deluxe kitchen made for Barbie and Ken in the mid-1960s is just amazing.