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Art duo create 3D miniatures of iconic photos in their studio

Swiss artists Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger play with history, creating 3D replicas of iconic photographs in their Zurich studio from cardboard, wood and glue.

For their ongoing Icons series – on show at Photo London this week – they ‘remake’ important world events. Among their scenes is man’s first step on the moon, recreated from Edwin Aldrin’s 1969 image, and the Paris Concorde crash, as captured by Toshihiko Sato in 2000.

Cortis & Sonderegger's Icons series
From Cortis & Sonderegger’s Icons: Making of ‘Concorde’ (by Toshihiko Sato, 2000), 2013

Their final compositions reveal their conceit. Cortis and Sonderegger pull back the camera from their sculptures to show the surrounding studio and the accoutrements of their craft – glue, tape and cotton wool. Past and present intertwine, and the viewer is asked to question fact and fiction.

‘One should not simply trust photography,’ Cortis explains. ‘When there was no digital image processing, there was still a means to stage a picture or direct it in one way.’

From Cortis & Sonderegger’s Icons: Making of ‘AS11-40-5878’ (by Edwin Aldrin, 1969), 2014

The duo began the project as a joke in 2012. ‘In our free time, when there’s no money coming in, we decided to try to recreate the most expensive pictures in the world,’ Cortis says.

Now they’ve created a body of 50 images – nine of which are being shown at Photo London by Dubai-based East Wing gallery – that will culminate in a 2018 book, published by Thames & Hudson.

Their 3D miniatures are deliberately low-fi in construction. Look closely and you’ll spot the wood grain that doubles for ripples on the sea, or the cotton wool used to evoke clouds. Photoshop work is restricted to colour adjustments only.

Cortis & Sonderegger's Icons series
From Cortis & Sonderegger’s Icons: Making of ‘Derrière la gare de Saint-Lazare’ (by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1932), 2016

Says East Wing director Elie Domit: ‘They force you to really examine the photographs. Today, we consume so much imagery, we take things at face value and fail to look at the details.’

Cortis and Sonderegger’s Icons take weeks (and sometimes months) to assemble but are destroyed after they’ve been photographed to make space for the next recreation. This adds another layer to the narrative about time.

Cortis & Sonderegger's Icons series
From Cortis & Sonderegger’s Icons: Making of ‘9/11’ (by John Del Giorno, 2001), 2013

Other important historic images they’ve restaged include Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘Derrière la gare Saint-Lazare’ from 1932 and John Del Giorno’s photograph of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Photo London runs until 21 May 2017 at Somerset House, London.

Read next: Nix + Gerber create miniature scenes of apocalyptic architecture



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