Durham Doll turns heads on Bull City streets

April 6, 2019

“Can I just get a thimble-sized cup of coffee?” Talya Klein said to a slightly confused barista at The Durham Hotel coffee bar.

It was a detail she didn’t want to leave out.

“Attention to detail, that’s my signature move,” she said.

Klein is the creator of The Durham Doll, also known as Dahlia. Dahlia has gained a social media following for her pictures at landmarks around Durham. Dahlia has been photographed at Bulls games, on the Duke campus and all around the Bull City.

During one photo shoot she was wearing a replica outfit modeled after what the baristas wear at The Durham and now had a fresh pot of actual hot coffee.

“I think in my pictures and in my posts there’s a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of passion for all of the things that make Durham Durham,” Klein said.

She posts pictures to Facebook and Instagram where The Durham Doll has thousands of followers.

“I want to post it as quickly as possible with as little editing as possible so it was like she was really there,” she said.

Klein is a film professor and director at Duke University. She created Dahlia as a subject to practice photography and visual storytelling. She had no idea it would catch on with other people in the community.

“She gets noticed on the street,” she said. “People are yelling out car windows, ‘Hey Dahlia!’”

The doll has long, curly dark hair and is usually dressed casually. It’s a vibe that was important to Klein when she created Dahlia.

“Her narrative doesn’t circle around how good she looks,” she said.

It’s more about where she has been. Klein makes all of the clothes for the doll and has boxes of props stacked up in her apartment. You can even find prints of Dahlia for sale at local shops around Durham.

“Durham loves weird, Durham loves quirky and Durham loves it’s own,” said Klein.