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Box A
Double Take [1]

[spellchecked incl lists ]

[10Jan20] I have been giving some thought to the continuum of photographic pastiche from (what is accepted as) art to (at the other extreme) silliness (if that's the word).

Pastiche homage or tribute?

Box B
…Play-Doh [2]

This was brought on by buying a damaged (and therefore inexpensive) copy of Cortis & Sonderegger's Double Take [1], then encountering Eleanor Macnair's Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh [2] which I returned to the Atlas Gallery to buy today. And in the back of my mind was the recreation of some famous photographs in Lego which I first saw a few years ago.

Given that Double Take seems to be regarded as a serous project and …Play-Doh was on sale in a legitimate art gallery showing classic photographs from LIFE mag at the time, but the Lego efforts are presumably regarded as trivial, where do the boundaries lie?

Macnair mentions two books on her web site [3] in which her work has appeared and might be useful,
Photography Decoded: Look, Think, Ask – by Susan Bright and Hedy Van Erp, and
Beg, Steal and Borrow: Artists Against Originality by Robert Shore.
The second is on order, the first on my wishlist.

There's also a lovely description of her process on Eleanor Macnair's web site,

After I’ve finished a work I shoot it and immediately take it apart, returning the Play-Doh to respective colour pots to re-use. The orange background in the Man Ray became the dead leaves in the Alec Soth, the pocket handkerchief in the Seydou Keita and the hair in the William Eggleston. The works no longer exist, they become ephemeral, and I’m usually the only one who has ever seen them in their 3-dimensional state. The photographs here are all that remain.
I like the idea of a Chinese whisper through time… from the original subject of the photograph, the photographer’s print, a digital file on the Internet, a Play-Doh model on my table, my digital file on the Internet and now the works on a gallery wall. What is lost and what remains?
I never said it was serious. They are what they are. Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh. Eleanor Macnair [3]

Another train of copies is Fenton's Valley of the Shadow of Death,  Paul Seawright's, Afghanistan, 2002 and  Terry Towery's View of Crimean Battle Scene, 2006. This is also recreated in Double Take.

An early question is, are there any overlaps of the sources: original - double - play-doh and Lego?
One I noticed was Cartier-Bresson's Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare which is, I think covered by all three.

The Double Take subjects are listed here.
The best (and possibly original) Lego works are by "Balakov" on Bored Panda [4] and are listed here. There's also an entry on PetaPixel [5].
There are a lot of images in Play-Doh that I don't recognise so I'll just list some and note the matches. I believe that Macnair is still working on the project so there may be more matches online.

Pastiche homage or tribute?

Pastiche is the first word that came to mind, though there are others. Let's try to distinguish between them.

A homage - in the fashion of, style of, or following the same methods as the subject but containing some distinctive element of the homagist.
Pastiche, I'd say, is using the same approach to a variety of subjects, and this is what Double Take and Macnair are doing.
A tribute is more of a straight imitation .


Adams - Baldessari - Cartier-Bresson - Fenton - Smith

Ansel Adams, Moon and Half Dome, 1960

Adams Moon Double Take, Adams, Moon
Box C
1. Ansel Adams, Moon and Half Dome, 1960
2. Cortis & Sonderegger, Making of Moon and Half Dome, 2016
3. Balakov, Moon and Half Dome (image from
© the artists or their estates or representatives

Adams' image (fig. C1) pretty (or, more properly) attractive and, as ever, technically accomplished, but I find most landscape photography rather vapid and soulless. 'If you like landscape, you'll love Adams' undoubtedly stands, but I fall at the first hurdle. On the DT remake, my question will probably remain the same throughout this page, 'why bother? . At least the Lego version has the advantage of being fun, accessible and not too time-consuming. It is a shame that Macnair has not (so far as I am tell) covered this so that we could start with an upsumming, but my default position on Macnair's work is that I find it charming, disarming and a welcome reminder that, ultimately, they are only photographs, renderings of a scene, as Macnair's pieces are in turn renderings of those renderings.

There is an interview with Cortis & Sonderegger, by William A. Ewing at the back of the book [1]. His opening question is 'Let's start at the beginning. And that implies two things: first the concept, and second the partnership' [1, p.106]. They answer the second, but not the first.
Later he asks, 'What everyone wants to know is: why don't you use Photoshop?' [1, p.109]. [My response would be, 'that would be even more pointless'.] They answer, 'Because we like to do it by hand'.

Roger Fenton,Valley of the Shadow of Death, 1855

Fenton, Death Valley Seawright, Valley Towery Crimean
Box D
1. Roger Fenton, Valley of the Shadow of Death, 1855
2. Paul Seawright, Valley, from Hidden, 2002
3. Terry Towery, View of Crimean Battle Scene, 2006
4. Cortis & Sonderegger, Making of Valley of the Shadow of Death, 2015
© the artists or their estates or representatives

Fenton's image and the possibility of a degree of scene management is discussed here. The Seawright's here; and Towery's here.

John Baldessari, Throwing Three Balls In The Air To Get A Straight Line (Best Of Thirty-Six Attempts), 1973

John Baldessari John Baldessari Macnair Baldessari
Box D
1, 2. John Baldessari, Throwing Three Balls In The Air To Get A Straight Line (Best Of Thirty-Six Attempts), 1973
3. Eleanor Macnair, rendering after Baldessari (detail)
© the artists or their estates or representatives

Baldessari's Three Balls (figs. 1-2) is in my list of favourite photographs - mostly because it captures his insouciant attitude to the medium and because it is graced with one of photography’s greatest titles — his other work, of which I am aware, is less impressive. Nevertheless, Three Balls is enough for immortality and I was therefore delighted that Macnair has taken it on. It is an obvious case for Lego and would have been an interesting challenge with a rare splash of colour, for Double Take.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris, 1932

Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare,   Paris, 1932 Double Take, Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare
Box E
1. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris, 1932
2. Cortis & Sonderegger, Making of Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, 2016
3. Balakov, Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare (image from
© the artists or their estates or representatives


W. Eugene Smith The Walk to Paradise Garden, 1946

W. Eugene Smith Balakov Macnair
1. W. Eugene Smith The Walk to Paradise Garden, 1946
2. Balakov, The Walk to Paradise Garden, (image from
3. Eleanor Macnair, rendered from: he Walk to Paradise Garden. The Smith Children, Patrick and Juanite, 1946
© the artists or their estates or representatives


Name, title, year

Figs. n



Double Take subjects

The titles have been abbreviated and some times renamed. A blue tick means they have been done in LEGO. A red tick means a Play-Doh match.

  • anon, Pearl Harbour
  • anon, Tsunami
  • Adams, Moon
  • Aldrin, Moon footprint (different shot)
  • Aubert, Emperor’s Shirt
    Bisson, Mont Blanc
  • Brooks, Five Soldiers
  • Browne, Titanic
  • Capa, Loyalist Militiaman
  • Cartier-Bresson, Behind the Gare
  • Daniels, Wright Brothers
  • Dominis, Black Power Salute
  • Edgerton, Milk Drop
  • Eggleston, Light Bulb
  • van Es, Saigon
  • Walker Evans, Burroughs' Cabin
  • Fenton, Valley
  • Fobes, Exxon Valdez
  • Füger, Ramstein
  • Gursky, Rhein II
  • Harman, Abu Ghraib
  • Hillary, Everest
  • Kaminski, 9/11
    Kirsch, Binary Scan
  • Lartigue, Grand Prix
  • Levy, 208-N-43888
  • Mucha, Auschwitz
  • Niépce, Le Gras
  • Rosenthal, Iwo Jima
  • Sate, Concorde
  • Shaw, Monroe
  • Shere, Hindenburg
  • Qian Sije, Mao
  • Penie Smith, The Clash
  • Steichen, Flatiron
  • Strumpf, Munich Massacre
  • Wagner, Nosferatu
  • Wetherell, Nessie
  • Zapruder, Kennedy

LEGO subjects

The titles have been abbreviated and some times renamed.

  • anon, Maradona (Hand of God)
  • anon, Lennon, Ono, Amsterdam Bed
  • various, Tiananmen Square
  • Adams, Moon
  • Aldrin, Moon Landing
  • Avedon, Kinski and Serpent
  • Bradshaw, Twickenham Streaker
  • Browne, Tibetan Monk
  • Capa, Loyalist Militiaman
  • Capa, D-Day Landings
  • Cartier-Bresson, Behind the Gare
  • Cartier-Bresson, Madrid
  • Cartier-Bresson, Rue Mouffetard
  • Cartier-Bresson, By the Marne River
  • Ebbets (?), Skyscraper Lunch
  • Eisenstaedt, Kiss, VJ Day
  • Elliott, Tennis Girl
  • Hine, Power house mechanic
  • Karsh, Churchill
  • Khaldei, Reichstag Flag
  • Leibing, Berlin Guard
  • Leibovitz, Miley Cyrus
  • McCurry, Afghan Girl
  • Patterson & Gimlin, Bigfoot
  • Potter, 4 Minute Mile
  • Prince, Cowboy
  • Riboud, anti-Vietnam protest 
  • Rosenthal, Iwo Jima
  • W. Eugene Smith, Paradise Garden

Play-Doh subjects

This is not a complete list, just the names I recognise.

  • Arbus, Boy, Hand-grenade
  • Avedon, Dovima, Elephants
  • Baldessari, 3 Balls - my favourite
  • Barney, Blue Boy
  • the Bechers, Water Tower
  • Blumenfeld, Vogue Cover
  • Bourdin, Pentax Calendar
  • Brandt, Nude
  • Brassaï, Couple
  • Cameron, Iago
  • Cartier-Bresson, Romania
  • Breton, Photomaton
  • diCorcia, Tim
  • Dijkstra, Kolobrzeg, Poland
  • Eggleston, from Biloxi
  • Walker Evans, Subway Passenger
  • Feininger, Photojournalist
  • Frank, Mary & Pablo
  • Goldin, Nan and Brian
  • Graham, Pittsburgh
  • Lartigue, Hotel des Alpes
  • Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith
  • Meyerowiitz, from Redheads
  • Morley, Christine Keeler
  • Parks, American Gothic
  • Parr, New Brighton
  • Prager, Film Still
  • Man Ray, Helen Tamaris
  • Sander, Pastrycook
  • Sherman, Untitled (of course)
  • Shore, Stan & John
  • W. Eugene Smith, Paradise Garden
  • Soth, Charles, Vasa
  • Strand, Gondeville
  • Tillmans, Tukon
  • Weston, Nude
  • Winogrand, Coney Island
  • Woodman, from Eels


1. Cortis, J. and Sonderegger, A. (2018) Double Take. London: Thames & Hudson.

2. Macnair, E. (2014) Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh. London: MacDonaldStrand and Photomonitor.

3. Macnair, E. (n.d.) Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh [online]. Available from [Accessed 10 January 2020].

4. BoredPanda (2010) 30 Creative LEGO Reproductions by Balakov [online]. Available from [Accessed 10 January 2020].

5. Zhang, M. (2010) Famous Photos Redone with LEGO [online]. Available from [Accessed 10 January 2020].

n. author, init (year) Title. Location: Publisher.

(rn) author (year) title [online]. website. Available from url [Accessed nn January 2020].

Page created 10-Jan-2020 | Page updated 28-Jan-2020