Inside the making of an Oscar statuette

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In 2016, the trophy changed again.

“We were engaged to create a new version of the sculpture that had attributes of both the original and the more modern representation,” said Jake Joyce, general manager of the UAP workshop in Rock Tavern, New York, that now makes the statuettes.

UAP was asked to return the statuette to its original splendor and celebrate its history, Joyce said.

“The Academy supplied us with an original 1928 statue and a more modern version,” he said. “We 3D-scanned both, and then our digital artists worked with the Academy to celebrate the desired attributes of both statues.”

It is now closer to Stanley’s original Art Deco sculpture, including being cast solid in gold-plated bronze. Each statuette is 13.5 inches tall, and it weighs 8.5 pounds — about the same as a gallon of milk.

“It’s a very hefty and substantial item when you pick it up,” Joyce said. “They will last longer than all of us.”

For the past few months, photographer Christopher Payne has been documenting how the statuettes are manufactured, starting at the UAP foundry in Rock Tavern, a couple hours north of New York City.

“For me what was interesting was seeing this distinctive shape, that we all know and love and recognize, in its various forms leading up to the finished product,” Payne said.

Payne specializes in industrial photography and often works on stories of how various things are made, such as pencils and pianos. The challenge to these photo shoots, he said, is showing something that’s recognizable while the product is still being formed. That was not a problem for the Oscars.

“There’s no ambiguity,” he said, “and that’s the nice thing about working with something that’s so iconic.”

I’ve always tried to find beauty where we least expect it, especially in places that the public isn’t typically able to see.”

Christopher Payne, Photographer