Londoner #230 Eleanor MacNair transforms Play-Doh into beautiful pictures

Londoner #230 Eleanor MacNair transforms Play-Doh into beautiful pictures


Four years ago now, I went to a photographic pub quiz in Brighton. And one of the rounds was, uhm, to make a photograph in Play-Doh. And of course my team won that one. Anyway, it just became this thing where I had this Play-Doh. Another friend came around and we had had a couple of glasses of wine and we decided to make a couple. And then we shared them on Twitter and it became very popular very quickly, like it was on the Guardian website, the BBC website and then the project began really to take on a life of its own. I think my work connects with a wide range of people because internationally across the world people are familiar with Play-Doh and from their childhood as well, they know the smell, they know the taste. Oh no, the taste (Eleanor and filmmaker laughing) When I’m making the images, ’cause each one takes a few hours, it actually seems like a bit of a privilege to spend two, three, four, five hours looking at the same photograph, you see different things in the photograph you didn’t initially notice like the gesture of a hand or a slight, you know, a wave in the hair, something that really helps to make that photograph special. I like using Play-Doh ’cause it’s like one of the most vulgar materials. It’s like one of the most vulgar consumer materials you could possibly use. It’s not subtle, it’s garish and it’s bright and it’s tacky. And I think if you can make something interesting out of it, then maybe you’re onto something. Basically, the whole thing has always been a bit of an experiment. But from working in press and communications your job is to take really complex ideas and boil them down to straightforward language. And I think that I’m doing the same with the Play-Doh. From like working in art galleries and museums for years and very much, kinda being aware of like art-speak and you gotta try speak about art in certain terms, it’s kind of just nice to be like: it is what it is. Oh, shall I go and get that coat? (silent) I ain’t gonna look pensive. When I put them on the Instagram, on my Tumblr, I’m just throwing them out to the world. And I’m throwing them out without any comment, I’m not saying: this is a good photo the original one, or a bad one. But I guess it’s kind of commenting on how we do see and view images on Instagram, that they are disposable. And by me throwing the models away afterwards, it’s kind of like saying: yeah, this is disposable too.

Dereck Turner

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