These Artists Make Hyper-Realistic Dioramas of History's Most Iconic Photos

Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger's Photoshop-free pictures are actually tiny dioramas.
Making of “Tenzing Norgay on the Summit of Mount Everest” (by Edmund Hillary, 1953), 2015. Images courtesy the artists.

Swiss photographers Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger recreate history's most iconic photos with absurdly intricate dioramas. It's incredibly satisfying to examine the attention to detail they put into the waves of Loch Ness, the billowing smoke clouds of the Hindenburg zeppelin explosion, and the snow caps of Mount Everest made from common craft supplies like cotton, paper, and epoxy.

They're both completely obsessed with what makes a photo iconic, working together since 2005 to painstakingly recreate pictures like Tank Man and Nosferatu's long-fingered shadow. A single set can take as long as three months and occupy the entirety of their Zurich studio. The recreation of the environmentally disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill below was about five feet wide and 23 feet deep. After photographing every detail of their sets the artists destroy them. Their new book, DOUBLE TAKE: The World’s Most Iconic Photographs Meticulously Re-created in Miniature preserves their latest creations.


Making of “The Seven Year Itch” (by Sam Shaw, 1954), 2016

Despite all the effort to make the dioramas believable, Cortis and Sonderegger playfully shatter the illusion by including their workshop and tools in the frame. Their work is fun to look at, like most good miniature art, but they often choose pictures—the Twin Towers on 9/11, JFK's assassination, the 2004 tsunami—that carry the baggage of national trauma. Their whole practice is a statement on how much we rely on these images to understand the world, and how easy it is to fabricate them. They mostly abstain from Photoshop, preferring to pull off the mirage with their hands.

Check out exclusive images from Cortis and Sonderegger 's new book below.

Making of “Tsunami” (by unknown tourist, 2004), 2015

Making of “Exxon Valdez” (by Natalie B. Fobes, 1989), 2016

Making of “Paul Simonon at the New York Palladium, September 21st, 1979” (by Pennie Smith, 1979), 2016

Watch: This Artist Recreates His Nightmares with Photography

Making of “Black Power Salute” (by John Dominis, 1968), 2017

Making of “Mao Swimming in the Yangtze” (by Qian Sije, 1966), 2016

Making of “Tenzing Norgay on the Summit of Mount Everest” (by Edmund Hillary, 1953), 2015

Making of “Nosferatu” (by Fritz Arno Wagner, 1922), 2016

Making of “Milk Drop Coronet” (by Harold Edgerton, 1957), 2016

Making of “Binary Scan” (by Russell A. Kirsch, 1957), 2016

Making of “Flatiron - Evening” (by Edward J. Steichen, 1904), 2016

Making of “Part of the Bedroom of Floyd Burroughs’ Cabin” (by Walker Evans, 1936), 2016

Making of “The Shirt of the Emperor, Worn During his Execution” (by François Aubert, 1867), 2017

Making of “Attack of Pearl Harbor” (by unknown US Navy soldier, 1941), 2016

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