Research Point 1: ‘Something or nothing’ Page 99

Research Point 1: ‘Something or nothing’ Page 99


Read Chapter 4 ‘Something and Nothing’ in Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) London: Thames & Hudson. You will find this on the student website named PH4IAP_Something and Nothing.

To what extent do you think the strategy of using objects or environments as metaphor is a useful tool in photography? When might it fall down? Write some reflective notes on these points in your learning log.


Cotton comments that “…often quite ordinary, everyday objects, can be made extraordinary by being photographed (Cotton, 2014). I think that this is correct because while “These photographs retain the thing-ness of what they describe, but  subjects are altered conceptually because of the way they have been represented.” I have been trying to do this with A5 and there are many images which are very ordinary scenes or objects which I am using to communicate loss and grief.

Cotton emphasises the ‘iconography’ of this strand of photography which “includes objects balanced and stacked, the edges of corner of things, abandoned spaces, rubbish and decay, and fugitive or ephemeral forms, such as snow, condensation and light.” In the last six months I have been collecting some of these ‘iconic’ motifs or images which include, displaced objects, blurred images, condensation, empty spaces and stacking of objects. The condensation picture was taken at a motorway services station and the blurred scene behind this is a metaphor for the uncertain and unclear future that we sometimes see and feel.

Uta Barth is someone’s work that has had a big impression on me (Barth, 2016). At least two of the images so far in A5 are influenced by her work that invites us to look into the space between ourselves and the image. The first image is the last rotting tomatoes in the greenhouse at the end of a day, the second are the barbed wire and salvage yard fencing, although perhaps the latter has more studium and puctum than questioning the viewer about the image.

Where would this approach fall down? Perhaps when we have an issue that requires a different accepted approach, such as body photography where the body needs to be visible and documentary where there is a story that may need images with more signage.   Cindy Sherman would not find this approach helpful as her images are about visible self with visual parodies.


Cotton, C. (2014). The Photograph as Contemporary Art. London, Thames and Hudson.

Barth, U. (2016). “Uta Barth: artists website.” Retrieved 9th January, 2016, from