10 Classic Photographs — Reinterpreted Entirely in Play-Doh

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Macnair has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of photography, but has found that working in this way has given her an unintended new perspective. “I end up looking at photos in a completely different way,” she says. “‘Could I do that in Play-Doh? Would it work?’”

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“New Brighton” from “The Last Resort,” 1983-85, Martin Parr. Credit © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos Photo

“New Brighton” from “The Last Resort,” 1983-85, Martin Parr, rendered in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair. Credit © Eleanor Macnair

“Very often, to get eye contact with the camera, I have to move the heads and get them to stick in a certain position — so underneath the heads, very often there’s wads of Play-Doh keeping them in place,” Macnair says. “I usually have to shoot it 30 or 40 times, because if they’re looking the wrong way then it kind of loses the impact. I decided to do this particular Martin Parr because being British, you can almost smell what it was like to be a kid and in these resorts. Look at the ice cream on the legs! It’s just a universal picture.”

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“Girl with balloons, Grozny, Chechnya, Russia,” 2002, Thomas Dworzak. Credit © Eleanor Macnair Photo

“Girl with balloons, Grozny, Chechnya, Russia,” 2002, Thomas Dworzak, rendered in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair. Credit © Thomas Dworzak/Magnum Photos

“One of my rules is no porn and no dead people in Play-Doh — but I also think it’s interesting if I can show conflict in different ways. With this I was really interested in the contrast between the devastated landscape and the colorful balloons — but also if you look at the expression on her face, you can’t tell whether it’s horror or whether she’s shy and hiding from the camera. I really like the ambiguity of it.”

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“The Necklace, Buenos Aires, Argentina,” 1999, Alessandra Sanguinetti. Credit © Alessandra Sanguinetti/Magnum Photos Photo

“The Necklace, Buenos Aires, Argentina,” 1999, Alessandra Sanguinetti, rendered in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair. Credit © Eleanor Macnair

“This was one that I just had to do — I first saw it 10 years ago and it stuck with me. I’m not very good at profiles so I’m not too happy with that, but I like how the arm is turned. You can’t get everything right because Play-Doh is not subtle, so it’s all about looking at the small details and the gestures.”

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“Imaginary CD cover for Sahar. Caspian Sea, Mahmoudabad, Iran,” 2011, Newsha Tavakolian. Credit © Newsha Tavakoliani/Magnum Photos Photo

“Imaginary CD cover for Sahar. Caspian Sea, Mahmoudabad, Iran,” 2011, Newsha Tavakolian, rendered in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair. Credit © Eleanor Macnair

“With women not being able to perform publicly in Tehran, Newsha did a series of close-up portraits of women singing to an imaginary audience, to try and take some of that power back; then she did this series of imaginary CD covers. I think she looks a bit like a siren. There’s something very timeless about it. I had to make the head three times because I couldn’t get the expression right — I nearly lost it doing that.”

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“Subway, NYC,” 1980, Bruce Davidson. Credit © Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos Photo

“Subway, NYC,” 1980, Bruce Davidson, rendered in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair.
Credit © Eleanor Macnair

“This is my favorite, I think. Bruce Davidson is one of my favorite photographers, and I thought this is one that might work in Play-Doh. He’s got a bit of eye contact and then you’ve got the black background and the yellow, and again the ambiguity — whether he’s protecting her or being possessive. I wanted to try and get a range of colors across my series, and actually the fact that this one is in the dark was one way of getting more visual diversity.”

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“Prized Possession (#2). Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa,” 2008, Jim Goldberg. Credit © Jim Goldberg/Magnum Photos Photo

“Prized Possession (#2). Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa,” 2008, Jim Goldberg, rendered in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair. Credit © Eleanor Macnair

“There’s something universal about this boy’s prized possession being his radio – when I was growing up, I had a mint-green cassette-player radio, and I thought it was so cool. I think the story here was that he could only take one thing with him to the refugee camp, and so he took his radio, and Jim Goldberg saw him on the hill listening for good news. It is really sad, but I like that there’s hope in it, and he hasn’t given up.”

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“Southend, England” from “The Teds,” 1977, Chris Steele-Perkins. Credit © Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Photos Photo

“Southend, England” from “The Teds,” 1977, Chris Steele-Perkins, rendered in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair. Credit © Eleanor Macnair

“I like this photograph because it’s very fashiony, with them in front of the wall, and their attitude. You can see that where I’ve cut the coat, I try and smooth it out but you get the raw edges — and because I’ve used the flesh-colored Play-Doh so many times, it’s got little fibers and dust in it. I think in some ways it’s quite nice; if these images were really 100% perfect and clean looking, then they would lose some of their appeal.”

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“Tricia and Curtis, Canada” from “NIAGARA,” 2005, Alec Soth. Credit © Alec Soth/Magnum Photos Photo

“Tricia and Curtis, Canada” from “NIAGARA,” 2005, Alec Soth, rendered in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair. Credit © Eleanor Macnair

“I wanted to do an Alec Soth image that was perhaps a little less well known. I liked this one because of the perspective, looking down on them. There’s a certain darkness, and I think you can see self-harm scars in the original, which I didn’t put in the Play-Doh. But I like it because they’re obviously happy and in love, but they’re a little bit world-weary. It was so hard to shoot them, to get the eye contact.”

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“Robert F. Kennedy Funeral Train,” 1968, Paul Fusco. Credit © Paul Fusco/Magnum Photos Photo

“Robert F. Kennedy Funeral Train,” 1968, Paul Fusco, rendered in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair. Credit © Eleanor Macnair

“I love this series. When Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, his body was transferred by train from New York to Washington, and so all these people waited on the side of the railway tracks. In this one there are three people saluting as it goes past — it’s a gesture that maybe took 10 seconds, but it’s immortalized in the photograph. This one was really hard to do, because they’re so small — I shot it so the light was coming in from an angle, to help get the sense of movement.”

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Source: New York Times

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