PDN Photo of the Day

Shaping the Sofas, Birds and Knees of Photographic History in Play-Doh

A recently opened exhibition at the Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs gallery in Germany features the work of artist Eleanor Macnair. Titled Sofas, Birds and Knees, the show is comprised of photographs rendered in Play-Doh. The images recreate actual photographs and are grouped by common references to sofas, birds and knees, rather than genre, maker or time period.

Sofas, Birds and Knees is my strange journey through photographic history,” says Macnair. She began the work in 2014 with a series called Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh. Since then she’s found herself attracted to pictures that contain particular objects, animals or themes, and is interested in what’s similar and what’s different between the images. Sofas, Birds and Knees “does claim to be an authority on sofas, birds and knees in photographic history,” says Macnair, “rather a brief and eccentric tour.”

The works recreated in the exhibition include those by Stephen Shore, Andre Kertesz, William Eggleston, Ren Hang, Paolo Ventura, Fukase, Sally Mann, Mickalene Thomas and Roger Ballen, among others.

After creating a Play-Doh model, Macnair photographs it and then destroys it before sharing the resulting image. The model becomes ephemeral and the print on the gallery wall is like the result of a game of telephone that starts with the original image, explains Macnair.

The project is a comment on how many people view hundreds of images a day on phones, computers, on billboards or newspapers, but never really take the time to look. “It also questions how we make judgements about the quality of art due to the materials used, subject matter and means of dissemination,” says Macnair. By remaking both well-known and obscure photographs in vivid, exaggerated colors, the work encourages viewers to “slow down and re-engage with familiar works as well as discover new ones beyond their news feed,” says Macnair.

Macnair’s work has reached a wide international audience through social media – primarily tumblr and Instagram – and was published as a book in 2014. The work has been exhibited internationally and has been featured in several major publications.

Sofas, Birds and Knees by Eleanor Macnair
Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs
Wiesbaden, Germany
April 28 – June 1, 2018

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