Portraits in Plasticine

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Dakota Johnson for AnOther Magazine by Eleanor Macnair
Dakota Johnson for AnOther Magazine A/W15By Eleanor Macnair

Eleanor Macnair makes a playful postmodern statement with her latest exhibit of photographs rendered in play-doh

Eleanor Macnair's masterful, three-dimensional plasticine works have long-been admired by AnOther. So much so, that in celebration of her new exhibition at London's Atlas gallery, we invited the British artist to apply her pâte à modeler treatment to the latest edition of AnOther Magazine with this delightful reimagining of our denim-clad Dakota Johnson cover – who, it transpires, looks just as resplendent when rendered in play-doh.

Viewers will be pleased to know that Macnair kneads an equally vivid interpretation of the photographs that frame her latest show, including poignant potraits by Will McBride and Gordon Parks. Here, she reveals the creative nuances behind a selection of pieces from the series. 

Will McBride, Jack Crowley with Dove, 1969  
"I’m always looking for new photographers to feature in the project and I stumbled across Will McBride by accident. I thought it was odd that I didn’t know of him before, but researching further I found out that exposure of his work in the past suffered from censorship due to his honest depictions of of sexuality and youth. I decided to remake this image as I liked the shadow, crop and the boy’s tenderness with the dove. I’m also interested in recurring themes, in this instance the depiction of a boy with a bird – think of Picasso’s Boy With The Dove, the iconography of Ken Russell’s film Kes and one of my favourite photographs, Colin Jones’ shots from his The Black House series of a boy holding a pigeon." 

Daniel Gordon, Portrait with Blue Hair, 2013
"I’ve always found Daniel Gordon’s work intriguing and thought this image would be a challenge, so why not give it a try! I’m glad I did as it’s now one of my favourites. I try to highlight contemporary photographers in the project, and quite a lot of my recent work is quite minimal and wouldn’t look good in play-doh as it’s so crude, no light and shadow. I like the thought of the journey of the individual images used Daniel’s collage … from original magazine or book to Daniel’s studio, to the collage, his photograph and now a play-doh version." 

Al Vandenberg, Untitled, from the series On a Good Day, London, 1975-80
"I love Al Vandenberg’s work and especially his street portraits. This image in particular struck me as I loved the girl’s slight scowl, her hair twist and her cassette player. It’s always a gamble remaking a black & white photograph in colour but here the most important thing was to try and capture the girl’s attitude. People often ask how I get the colour in the cheeks. It’s simple, the colours bleed if they get wet, so I use wet pink play-doh." 

Gordon Parks, Untitled, 1948
"Gordon Parks’ American Gothic portrait is probably his best known, but I’ve always been struck by this portrait of Red Jackson, the 17-year-old leader of the Harlem gang, The Midtowners. The image, commissioned by Life magazine in 1948, was recently including in the exhibition The Making of an Argument, which looked at the editorial decisions by the magazine and how this context changed the way in which Parks’ original photo essay was viewed. By remaking this image I hope I lead more people to discover the photographs and the career of this extraordinary photographer."

Eleanor Macnair: Photographs Rendered In Play-Doh, runs until November 27, 2015 at Atlas Gallery.