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Barbie and Ken love Israel

Italian couple shoots photos of Israeli tourist attractions with iconic plastic dolls ‘posing’ in background; photos presented in Milan exhibition

Anav Silverman, Tazpit

Published: 02.15.13, 14:45 / Israel Travel
 Enrico Pescantini and Maria Giovanna Callea received some weird looks when they were vacationing in Israel this past August. The Italian couple may have looked like typical tourists, visiting the sites and shooting photos, but it was the objects in their photos that attracted the curious stares.

Accompanying the couple during their travels, were Barbie and Ken, the iconic plastic dolls.

During their visits to Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Tel Aviv, Nazareth and the Dead Sea, Pescantini and Callea shot photos of the sites with Ken and Barbie “posing’” in the background.

The photo project, entitled “Barbie Loves Israel,” is now on display at a popular bar in a Milan, the couple’s hometown in Italy. Italian fashion magazines such as Italian Vanity Fair and Vogue have also featured the couple’s photo exhibition, which include shots of Barbie and Ken floating in the Dead Sea, riding on a jeep ride in Ein Gedi, catching the waves in Tel Aviv, and posing in Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock in the background.

Tel Aviv: Life is a Beach (Photo: Enrico Pescantini and Maria Giovanna Callea)


The unique idea for the pop-art photography was born as Pescantini and Callea were planning their trip to Israel last year. At the time, the two were living miles apart, with Enrico in Mumbai working for a telecommunications company and Maria in Milan working in advertising.

Pescantini, whose passion is photography, began to consider what kind of photo shoot the couple could stage during their vacation in the Holy Land.

“The idea was to use Barbie and Ken as our alter-egos” wrote Callea to Tazpit News Agency. “Ken would come from Mumbai and Barbie from Milan and they would begin their trip together in Tel Aviv, just as we did. For the rest of the trip, we documented our Israel experience through Barbie and Ken.”

On the shores of the Dead Sea (Photo: Enrico Pescantini and Maria Giovanna Callea)


The August trip was the Italian couple’s first visit to Israel. “We were fascinated and attracted by the idea of discovering a mix of different cultures, landscapes, religions, and people,” Callea told Tazpt News Agency.

“Barbie and Ken always aroused curiosity in people – we always had eyes on us during our photo shoots,” recalled Callea. “But people were always smiling.”

Callea and Pescantini thoroughly enjoyed their vacation to the country. “Israel was one of best trips of the year, with amazing cities full of nice people, each with a unique atmosphere. Israel surpassed our expectations!” exclaimed the couple.

Pescantini, 28, and Callea, 30, also noted that the photos were “just pictures of their holidays, without any commercial or political purpose.”

The couple are planning to bring Ken and Barbie on their next holiday abroad, following their first successful trip with their “plastic friends” in Israel.

The Barbie doll was created in 1959 by a Jewish businesswoman Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel. Handler named the doll after her daughter Barbara, and later added another plastic counterpart to Barbie’s world – Ken, Barbie’s boyfriend, named after Handler’s younger son.

The “Barbie Loves Israel” exhibition by Enrico Pescantini and Maria Giovanna Callea was on display at Milan’s Kitsch Bar, Corso Sempione 5, until February 20, this year.

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