The most fun that I had with photography in 2014 was watching Eleanor Macnair recreate iconic photos in Play-Doh. A project that started out small and on a whim, not too long ago, became a phenomenon. Besides the original Tumblr, which has many thousands of followers, there's now a book as well. Eleanor and her creations have done this without diluting the essential ingredient -- a sense of fun.
Original photograph: Woman, 1971, by Akira Sato.
I like Macnair's project so much that I asked her if she'd agree to be interviewed. Happily, she said "yes," and she certainly had interesting things to say about how she sees photos and how she recreates them. Hyperallergic, the arts magazine, published the interview yesterday. You can read it, here.
Original photograph: Nuit de Noël, 1963, by Malick Sidibe.
At first glance, rendering photographs in Play-Doh seems like a silly thing to do. But there's a method behind Macnair's madness. This is what I said in my introduction to the interview:
Eleanor Macnair’s Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh are serious fun. Whether on Tumblr, where her re-imagined photographs first appeared, or in her recently published book of the same name, their cartoonish colors and shapes dazzle the eye. There’s also a wicked absurdity in seeing iconic images reproduced in a medium that we associate with childhood. (Most of us can probably remember exactly what the stuff tastes like.)
It’s precisely this re-imagining that points to what’s profound about Macnair’s creations. They produce careful and sympathetic understandings of their source photographs, urging viewers to disengage from the hundreds of images that they see every day “on phones, computers, through adverts, on billboards and in newspapers.” We all need “to slow down,” as Macnair puts it in the book, “and to re-engage with familiar works as well as discover the unfamiliar ones.”
Original photograph: Monica, from the series Natural Red Hair, by Hanne Van Der Woude