In my most recent series of landscape photographs and woven tapestries, Transmutations, I incorporate native elements and minerals such as gold, silver, copper, nickel, pigments, and salt into my pictures. A vein of nickel coursing through a mountain ravine in my two-dimensional picture becomes a place for reflection and interruption. It  asks the the viewer to reconsider the space within the frame and beyond.

With respect for traditional practices, I have a fervent curiosity about new approaches to image making. As I continue to investigate the role of materiality in my work, the centerpiece of Transmutations is a set of  jacquard tapestries, three-dimensional objects that shift to the play of shadow and light. The decision to work in tapestry is a natural progression from earlier series, where hundreds of images were digitally stitched together to create the illusion of depth within a unified vista. These immensely complicated weaves utilize hundreds of patterns and colors, custom chosen to best reflect my photographs, which are then transmuted into the language of a jacquard loom. The tapestries depict dramatic vistas shot in the Accursed Mountain region in the north of Albania—the most remote, rugged region of the country—where rich natural minerals cascade down the peaks, and where three religions—Islam, Orthodox Christianity, and Catholicism—still peacefully coexist. My family left Albania before the Second World War, after which the country entered a 47-year period of staunch communist isolation, ending in its transition to democracy in 1991. I have crossed the country many times in attempts to connect to a place and people whose blood I share but with whom I was once forbidden to communicate.

The use of handwork incorporated into these photographs is a means to explore color, composition, space, and texture through the vitality of substances. Working with film and paper is reminiscent of pictures I made in the darkroom, although here the final objects are both hand and machine made. The explosion of Gold Dome references my family’s shattered relationship to Orthodox Christianity. The image titled Spac, with its prosaic U-shaped river, was made at the most feared and brutal political prison—a copper mine hidden in the center of the country. As I traversed the region with my camera I was seeking both a spiritual connection and physical evidence of its savage past.

Over the last half decade my practice has featured landscape and the temporal investigations that result in the reinterpretation of quotidian vistas through complex processes. Empire Falling (2013) is a series that explored the active and abandoned rock quarries of the American Midwest. Sublime: the LA River (2015) captured the 51 miles of urban waterway that encompass and compress the strata of the Los Angeles river’s history by layering traces of nature, development, and decay. The idea of layering—depicting physical impossibilities, conflicting perspectives, and rearranged geology—comes from my fascination with the perceptual play of the camera and one’s vision as the brain defaults to resolve discrepancies by filling in gaps with images from memories, previously seen depictions, and preconceptions.

Previous works have explored the cultural, social, and sexual practices of marginalized communities. The Pleasure Park, is a comprehensive look at the world of thoroughbred horse racing and jockeys. Dorfman has created a 5-minute panoramic film that both reconstructs a horse race and explores the milieu of the track. As companion pieces, Dorfman produced a 1-hour video that gazes quietly at jockeys, revealing both their power and vulnerability. Photographic portraits of racehorses in a studio setting present the formidable and sinewy animals off the track, deprived of visual cues. Although the ritual and pageantry of the race are alluded to in the accoutrement represented, the animals are suspended in motion, removed from the culture of commodity and winning at any cost. The intent behind The Pleasure Park is to capture the poise and resilience of the fleeting animal in space while placing the spectator directly in the racing environment, creating an overwhelming sensation of the beauty of the physical form and sheer force of these athletes. Photographic stills and 3-channel video, 2009;

Fandomania: Characters & Cosplay (Aperture, 2007) explored the world of costume play–a pop-cultural phenomenon exported from Japan. The subjects in this series are extreme fans who frequent conventions worldwide, and who dress up and live as characters from video games, Japanese manga, and anime.

Still Lovers (Channel Photographics, 2005), a body of work that brought Dorfman international acclaim, focuses on the domestic lives of men and women who devote themselves to life-size, anatomically correct sex dolls. The intent is not to exploit the obvious deviancy of these sexual surrogates, but rather to reveal the fascinating secret world of intimacy between flesh and silicone.


Born Boston, Massachusetts
Lives and works in Los Angeles


1987 University of Vienna, Austria
1988 Bachelor of Arts, Sarah Lawrence College

Selected Exhibitions


Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami, FL, “Still Crazy: 40 Years”(group)
Robischon Gallery, Denver, CO, “Transmutations”
Art in Embassies, Dakar, Senegal, “Empire Falling” (group)
Natural History Museum, Los Angeles, CA, “Becoming Los Angeles” (group)
Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO, “New Territory” (group)
Prada Foundation Osservatorio, Milan, Italy, “Still Lovers”


Modernism Gallery, San Francisco, CA, “The Origin of the New World”
The Berrie Center Art Gallery, Ramapo College, NJ, “Forms & Effects: Ukiyo-e to Anime” (group exhibition)
Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, CA, “Syria’s Lost Generation”


Pier 24, San Francisco, CA, “Collected” (group exhibition)
Modernism Gallery, San Francisco, CA, “Sublime: The L.A. River”
Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane, New Orleans, LA, “Syria’s Lost Generation”
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, “The Lost Generation: Portraits from the Middle East”


Robischon Gallery, Denver, CO, “Sublime: The L.A. River”
Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati, OH, “Sublime: The L.A. River”
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH, “Unknown Elements” (group exhibition)
LACMA, Los Angeles, CA, Artist Response, web-based response to Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA, “Personalities: Fantasy and Identity in Photography and New Media (group exhibition)
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, “The Lost Generation: Portraits from the Middle East”

Robischon Gallery, Denver, CO, “Empire Falling”

Modernism Gallery, San Francisco, CA, “Desire” (group exhibition)
Steven Kasher Gallery, New York, NY, “Alchemical” (group exhibition)
21c Museum, Bentonville, AK, “Hybridity: The New Frontier” (group exhibition)
Modernism Gallery, San Francisco, CA, “Empire Falling”
Phyllis Weston Gallery, Cincinnati, OH, “Empire Fallilng”

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, “Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870 (Group Exhibition)
Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy (Group Exhibition)
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, “The 1%”, two-panel video installation for “Small Scale/Big Change”
Ann Tower Gallery, Lexington, KY, “The Pleasure Park”
Modernism Gallery, San Francisco, CA, “The Pleasure Park”
U.S. Embassy, Stockholm, Sweden, “Transparency and Transformations in Contemporary American Art”
21c Museum, Louisville, KY, “The Pleasure Park” 3-channel video installation

21c Museum, Louisville, KY, “Pleasure Park: The Horses”
Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Florence, Italy, “Manipulating Reality”

Camera Obscura Galeria de Arte, Madrid, Spain, “Fandomania”
Gallery JRB at the Elms, Oklahoma City, OK, “Fandomania”

Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, NY, “Fandomania”

21C Museum, Louisville, KY, “Inaugural Exhibition”
Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, MA, “Still Lovers”
Martha Schneider Gallery, Chicago, IL, “Still Lovers”
Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York, NY, “O, You Beautiful Doll”

Trierenberg AG, Austria, “New Art, New York: Reflections on the Human Condition” (Group Exhibition)
Belfast Exposed, Belfast, Ireland, “Still Lovers”
The Royal Pavilion, Libraries and Museums, Brighton & Hove, Brighton, England, “Guys and Dolls”
Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, NY, “Still Lovers”

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, “Recent Acquisitions”
New York Arts Magazine Gallery, New York, NY, “AC”

Modernism Gallery, San Francisco, CA, “Valley of the Dolls: Works by Hans Bellmer, Elena Dorfman & David Leventhal:
Camerawork, San Francisco, CA, “Exploring Intimacy”


Fandomania: Characters & Cosplay, text by Carlo McCormick, Aperture, New York, NY

Still Lovers, text by Elisabeth Alexandre, Channel Photographics, New York, NY
Des Poupees et des hommes, text by Elisabeth Alexandre, La Musardine, Paris, France

Here & Now: Stories of Survival, photographs and interviews by Elena Dorfman, Avalon, New York, NY

The C-Word: Teenagers & their Families Living with Cancer, NewSage Press, Portland, OR


The 1%, 3-minute, 2-panel video for “Small Scale/Big Change,” The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

The Pleasure Park, 5-minute panoramic film with original score
The Pleasure Park: The Jockeys, 1-hour video loop

Costume Play, 5-minute video animation with original score


Michael Paglia, “Humanitie’s Assault on Nature” Westword, April 4, 2018
Sarah Burke, “At Mills, Portraits of Teen Syrian Refugees Humanize Conflict”, KQED Arts, February 16, 2017
Charles Desmarais, “Photography Show a Snapshot of Collectors’ Selves”, San Francisco Chronicle, June 3, 2016
Sura Wood, “Embarcadero Photography Pilgrimage”, June 16, 2016Leora Lutz, “Sublime: The LA River”, Art Ltd., March 2016
Liesl Bradner, “Sublime, The Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2016
Judith Turner-Yamamoto, “Wandering in the Uncanny Valley”, Photographer’s Forum, spring, 2016
Germano Celant, Fotografia maledetta e  non, “Still Lovers”, Feltrinelli, 2015
Dzana Tsomondo, “Stolen Youth”, PDN, September 2015
Tema Stauffer, “Syria’s Lost Generation”, American Photo, August 4, 2015
Shepherd, Dan, “Elena Dorfman: Empire Falling and River”, LenScratch, July 10, 2014
Marquad Smith, The Erotic Doll: A Modern Fetish, Yale University Press, 2014
Dana Jennings, “Dreamscapes, Abysses And Radiation”, The New York Times, Paper Gallery, August 23, 2013
Jonathon Keats, “When Photographers are Neuroscientists”, Nautilus, Fall 2013
Vince Aletti, “Alchemical”, The New Yorker, August 5, 2013
Conor Risch, “Built Landscapes: Empire Falling”, PDN, April 22 2013
Exposed: Voyeruism, Survelliance, and the Camera Since 1870; SFMOMA publication, 2010
Cherie Louis Turner, Art Ltd. “The Pleasure Park,” July/Aug 2010
Conor Riess, Photo District News: Exposures, “The Pleasure Park,” June 2010
Clayton Maxwell, “The Pleasure Park,” Eyemazing Issue 01-2010
Christopher Bolton, “A Cosplay Photography Sampler,” Mechademia 5: Fanthropologies, Fall 2010
“Elena Dorfman,” Realta Manipolate, Palazzio Strozzi, 2009
Reed Albergotti, “For Exhibit”, The Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2000Le Journal de La Photograhie, “Empire Falling,” March 1, 2013Kenneth Baker, “Elena Dorfman at Modernism”. San Francisco Chronicle, February 3, 2103“New Work,” Art Daily, April 30, 2009
“Fandomania,” Exit Magazine
“The Anime Within,” Mother Jones Magazine, Nov/Dec 2007
Elisabetta Piatti, “Fandomania,” Zoom, Sept/Oct. 2007
Karen Leigh, “Character Studies,” Entertainment Weekly, June 1, 2007
Jonathon Keats, “The Talk,” San Francisco Magazine, June 2007
“Fandomania,” Jane magazine, June/July 2007
“State of the Art,” Pop Photo, May 29, 2007
“Fandomania,” Jane magazine, June/July 2007
David Lipke, “The Underground World of Cosplay,” DNR, April 23, 2007
Maura Egan, “Imaginary Friends,” New York Times Style Magazine, Spring
Anna Holtzman, “Elena Dorfman: Fandomania,” Eyemazing, 2007
Bo Sondergaard, “Scener fra et dukkehjem,” Magasinet, Denmark
Michael Workman, “Eye Exam Valley of the Dolls,” Newcity Chicago, May 26, 2006
Cassie Riger, “Still Lovers Book Review,” Camerawork, volume 33, Spring/Summer 2006
Meaghan Laslockey, “Just Like A Woman,” Courrier (Japon), June 1, 2006
Sacha Ettinger Epstein, “Guys and Dolls,” Black + White, (Australia), May 2006
Slywia Czubkowska, “LALA Mida,” Przekroj (Poland), No 6/3164, March 2006
Cate McQuaid, “It’s Not What It Looks Like,” Boston Globe, March 9, 2006
Anu Partanen, “Taydelliset naiset,” Image (Norway), March 2006
Felicity Robinson, “Amori di Plastica,” Marie Claire, (Italy), March, 2006
Ian Sattler, “The Fiction We Live,” Swindle, Issue No. 5, January 2006.
Susan Morgan, “Road Less Traveled: Elena Dorfman, Still Lovers,” Aperture, November/December 2005
Ilaria Bernardini, “Baciami Stupido,” Rolling Stone (Italy), December 2005
William Hannigan, “Hot Books,” Hotshoe, October/November 2005
Meghan Lasloky, “Just Like A Woman,”, October 11, 2005
“Agenda,” Vogue (France) Atûo 2005
Gaël Le Bellego & Julien Blanc-Gras, “Génération Real Dolls,” Max (France), Septembre 2005
“In Play,” Radar Magazine, September/October 2005.
Catherine Castro, “Poupees X,” Marie Claire Homme (France) October 2005
Amanda Doenitz, “Are Skin Pics the Latest Aphrodisiac?” Art on Paper, September/October 2005
Katherine Nguyen, “Risqué Reading,” Picture Magazine, July/August 2005
Werner Bartens, “Lust Aus Dem Labor,” SZ Wissen (Switzerland) May 2005
Gabriela Weiner, “Peinando La Muneca,” Paula, Chili, March 2005
James Gardner, “Art Attack,” New York Post, February 26, 2005
Marta Rebón, “Amor de Plástico,”Lateral Revista de Cultura, Febrero 2005
Julia Morton, “Elena Dorfman,” New York Press, February 16, 2005
Vince Aletti, “Elena Dorfman,” Village Voice, February 2, 2005
“New York,” Photography (France), Jan/Feb. 2005
Kenneth Baker, “Reviews:National,” Art News, January, 2005
“Paris Photo 2004,” Photo (France), November 2004
Suzy Menkes, “At Paris Photo, a Focus on the Power of Women,” International Herald Tribune, 9 November 2004
Simon Hewitt, “At the Fair,” Art & Auction, November 2004
Beatrice de Rochebouet, “Le Pari Contempoain de Paris Photo,” Figaro, 11 November 2004
Anna Holtzman, “Elena Dorfman: Still Lovers,” Eyemazing Gallery 31, Fall 2004
“Best Photography Project,” San Francisco Magazine, October 2004
Kenneth Baker, “Getting Intimate with Guys and ‘Dolls.'” San Francisco Chronicle, July 19, 2003
Marisa S. Olson,” ‘Valley of the Dolls’ At Modernism,” Artweek, September 2003, Volume 34, Issue 7
“Locating Intimacy: The Space Between,” Camerawork, Fall 2003
“What a Doll!” Sex TV, Canadian television program

Institute for Critical Theory, University Arts, Zurich, Switzerland (planned fall, 2018)
SBCAST, Santa Barbara, CA, 2017
The George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY, 2016
Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, 2016
Loyola Marymount College, Los Angeles, CA 2016
Annenberg Center for Photography, Los Angeles, CA, 2016
Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA, 2016
Art Center, Pasadena, CA, 2016
US Holocaust Memorial Museum (DC), Lecture in New York, NY, 2016
University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning, 2015
School of Visual Arts, New York, NY 2015