In 2012, Swiss-based artists Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger challenged themselves to recreate iconic images in their studio. Scouring books with history’s memorable photographs, they used optical tricks to reproduce what seemed impossible to duplicate: pivotal moments that often triggered creative or political rebellion. What began as a joke has developed into an ongoing series involving in-depth research and a sense of play in re-staging these events.

Scrutinizing how each original image was made, the artists mimicked this in their studio, using scale models and copying the lighting and vantage point of the camera to “remake” these events, from the crash of the Hindenburg and the 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 landmarks in the history of photography, remaking images by Man Ray, Ansel Adams and Andreas Gursky.

In their final compositions, Cortis & Sonderegger pull the camera back to reveal their studio and the “making of” aspect of their craft. By including the debris of their constructions (paint, glue, cotton wool) the artists present an image within an image – leaving the viewer unbalanced between the remake of the past and the present studio environment.

Cortis & Sonderegger seek to “outwit and question the documentary aspect” of photography. They want transparent forgeries with no digital “tricks”. These Icons are straightforward studio productions, not digital compositions; the inner image is the historical moment, while the outer background makes a snapshot of the present. Their aim is to raise questions in the mind of their audience about the temporal nature of experience and memory.

Jojakim Cortis (b. 1978) & Adrian Sonderegger (b.1980) have lived and worked in Zurich, Switzerland, since 2001. They began collaborating while studying at Zurich University of the Arts in 2005.