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‘He’s only 12 inches tall. I found him at a car boot sale’: John Adams’s best phone picture

The Guardian logo The Guardian 14/05/2022 Grace Holliday

Artist John Adams worked with assemblage boxes for years – eccentric cabinets of curios in the tradition of Joseph Cornell – before moving on to larger dioramas. An ex-teacher, Adams wanted to think bigger. In his studio, he sets up a group of objects on a table, like a still life.

“I have a board at the back, which I can paint or drape material over,” he says. “For this piece, I added a box with a hole punched through, and put this doll in. He’s only 12 inches tall. I think I found him at a car boot sale, or a toy shop. After that, I decided to make a garden: they’re mostly cheap plastic plants from Aldi.”

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Adams worked on this tableau, which measured about 90cm by 120cm, for a couple of weeks on and off. Taken with his Huawei P smartphone, this photo took about three hours to capture, with tweaks along the way. “I don’t need a digital camera,” Adams says. “It comes out pin sharp on a 3ft by 2ft print or canvas.

“There is always a part of you that thinks: ‘I won’t be able to destroy this afterwards,’ but it’s the photograph I’m working towards. Once that’s done, it’s time to dismantle, and make space for a new idea.”


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