The images in Whilst The World Sleeps were created late at night using Play-Doh, an empty wine bottle as rolling pin, a knife and a chopping board. Eleanor Macnair began her Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh project on an experimental whim in 2013 and has since amassed both a large audience and an archive of nearly 400 recreated images. Whilst The World Sleeps draws from this archive to create an alternative photographic history told in just over fifty recreated images, many published here for the first time.

We all view hundreds of images each day—on screens, in newspapers, in adverts—but we scan them and move on. Macnair began recreating photographs, both the familiar and overlooked, in bright Play-Doh colours to encourage the viewer to slow down and engage with the original photographs. The project, first shared on tumblr then Instagram, questions how we read and value imagery in a digital age and creates a humorous entry point for the audience to encounter the often inaccessible worlds of art and photography.

The models are created in Macnair’s spare time, often late at night, using off-the-shelf Play-Doh. The only colours she mixes are the flesh tones which she keeps in an old Tupperware container. Each model is then photographed in natural light in her bin yard, with many adjustments to get the angle and lighting just right. Finally, each model is destroyed and the Play-Doh returned to its respective pot ready for the next model.

‘I am interested in how we judge art. Who is to say what is good or bad? Who can make it and how? Can we hold it in esteem if it’s not cloaked in art speak, the production costs are minimal and the artist didn’t attend art school? Does this make it less valid? Or more so? Is it even art?’