Carefully considering the conditions in which each original image was made, the artists meticulously mimic these same methods in their studio; using scale models while paying close attention to the lighting and vantage point of the camera in an attempt to literally ‘remake’ these events, ranging from the crash of the Hindenburg and the supersonic passenger jet Concorde, to the last photograph of the Titanic and the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima. They also expanded their challenge to include important moments in the history of photography, remaking images by Ansel Adams and Andreas Gursky.
In their final compositions, Cortis & Sonderegger pull the camera back to reveal their studio and working methods exposing the backstage aspect of their craft. By including the debris of their constructions (paint, glue, cotton wool, etc.) the artists present an image within an image – leaving the viewer unbalanced between the remake of the past and the artist’s studio environment of the present.
Cortis & Sonderegger also look for ways to ‘outwit and question the documentary aspect’ of photography. It is important for them that their photographs are seen as complete forgeries, with no additional digital tricks. For them, these Icons are straightforward studio productions and not digital compositions; the inner image is the historical moment, while the outer background becomes a snapshot of the present. Their aim is not to mislead the viewer – instead, they want to fully expose the staging process in order to raise questions about the temporal nature of experience and memory.