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Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh
Original photograph: Portrait with Blue Hair, 2013 by Daniel Gordon rendered in Play-Doh © Eleanor Macnair

Eleanor Macnair »

Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh

Exhibition: – 21 Nov 2015

Atlas Gallery

49 Dorset Street
W1U 7NF London

+44 (0)20-72244192


Mon-Fri 10-18 . Sat 11-17

Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh
Original photograph: Jack Crowley with Dove, Munich, 1969 by Will McBride rendered in Play-Doh © Eleanor Macnair

Eleanor Macnair

2 October – 21 November 2015

Eleanor Macnair’s ‘Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh’ project will be exhibited for the first time this autumn at Atlas Gallery. The photographs reproduced in this exhibition range from the well-known and iconic to lesser-known images by contemporary photographers.

Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh started by Macnair on a whim in August 2013 with no expectation of reaching a wide audience. The images are produced late at night using Play-Doh, a chopping board, a highball glass as a rolling pin and a blunt Ikea knife. Each photograph takes 1-2 hours to reproduce, paring the image down to just form and colour, before being shot the next morning then disassembled back into the Play-Doh pots. The works themselves no longer exist and the Play-Doh is reused for future renderings, so these photographs are all that remain.

The project was shared on both tumblr and instagram and now reaches a wide audience - a testament to the democracy of the internet. Although there is a strong following amongst professional photographers and curators, the project has been viewed by thousands of people all over the world who aren’t involved in photography as far afield as Congo, Mongolia, Bolivia, and Kazakhstan. In the modern world we can view hundreds of images a day on phones, computers, through adverts, on billboards and in newspapers. The objective of Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh was only ever to encourage viewers to slow down and re-engage with familiar photographs and discover new ones.

Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh
Original photograph: Young boy, Gondeville, Charente, France, 1951 by Paul Strand rendered in play-doh © Eleanor Macnair

‘On the surface, photographs can condense complex ideas and present them in a straightforward visual language. I take this a step further and pare them down to almost nothing, just form and colour. They are what they are. Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh. It’s my strange tribute to photography.’

Eleanor Macnair began Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh in August 2013 and the project was published in book form by MacDonaldStrand / Photomonitor in October 2014. The book featured in the Observer’s Best Photography Books of 2015, described as ‘sublimely post-modern’. The project was included in the Works Programme at Look3 2015, Charlottesville curated by Scott Thode and Kathy Ryan of The New York Times. The project has also been featured on the Instagram blog, The Observer Magazine, theguardian.com, The Telegraph SEVEN magazine, PDN online, BBC online, Hyperallergic, Huffington Post, AnOther.com, Elephant magazine, Art Info, It's Nice That, Emaho Magazine and Design Week amongst others.

Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh
Original photograph: Untitled, 1975 from the series 'On a Good Day' by Al Vandenberg rendered in play-doh © Eleanor Macnair
Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh
Original photograph: Child with toy grenade, NYC, 1962 by Diane Arbus rendered in play-doh © Eleanor Macnair