I've normally walked out of a pub quiz with some nuggets of new-found information and I've occasionally left with the victor's prize, but I've never come away with a new hobby. Obviously I'm going to the wrong class of pub quiz, unlike Eleanor Macnair. When she attended a pub quiz hosted by Miniclick by MacDonaldStrand, one round asked the participants to recreate an iconic photograph using Play-Doh. Rather taken by the process, she started doing them at home for a bit of fun. It's grown a bit, with friends requesting specific recreations and a Tumblr dedicated to her work. Now anyone can see her version of August Sander's Pastrycook, Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver by Richard Avedon reworked in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair, or her rendition of Helen Tamiris by Man Ray, whether they're in Yemen or Equador.
Each postcard sized plaque is nothing more than a fleeting creation, however, and Eleanor is not amassing an archive of flour-water-salt dough representations in her living room. She crafts them in under an hour using a pint-glass rolling-pin and a blunt knife from a globally recognised homeware megalith, and they last long enough to be photographed before being broken up and the different Play-Doh colours returned to their respective tubs, ready to be reformed into another image, another day.
Eleanor says that she cringes when she sees people on the Internet debating the value of her project. It is, after all, a bit of fun. But if she can lead lead people to discover new photographers or look again at well known photographs, she's happy. And 'Sometimes it's nice to have the freedom to do something just because.'
Quite frankly I think it should be every photographer's aim to have Eleanor recreate one of their images. They'd be in hallowed company.
You can check out all of Eleanor's Play-Doh photos on her Tumblr: Photographs rendered in Play-Doh.