Research point 1: ‘Something and Nothing’ in Cotton

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.


Non human things can be made extraordinary when photographed.  Through photography we give un-ordinary objects, ones that we pass by without acknowledging – imaginative possibilities other than their usual function.  Making art using daily life objects has to have its significance though.

Richard Wentworth, a British artist has photographed signs and debris of urban streets.  His photographed objects are abandoned or used for things other than their usual purpose which gives them a comic characterization or a new narrative to the story of the image taken.

An example mentioned by Charlotte Cotton was this photograph by Wentworth:

©Richard Wentworth. Kings Cross, London, 1999.


As we can see the image is of car panels wedged into a doorway.  We can see the comical characterization that Wentworth was aiming for (using car panels to prevent access to the property) but there might also be a new narrative to the image such as the reason for barricading a door.

On the other hand, there is photographer Nigel Shafran who uses forms found in daily life such as the photograph below of a sewing kit on plastic table:

©Nigel Shafran Sewing Kit (on plastic table) Alma Place, 2002

Shafran plays with the juxtaposition and relationships between shapes and forms in an environment of an interior by allowing us to observe our unconscious acts of ordering and stacking in our daily lives.  He transforms environments into poetic scenes!

Photographing familiar daily life objects offers imagination and visual curiosity of the world and environment around us.  It is a very useful tool to being presented as art when used in a way to add visual impact or tell a story.  The use of colour, light, pattern, repetition, texture, form, composition, order, angle and relationship between the objects play a big role in the success of the end result of the photograph taken.

Finding beauty in everyday objects is an art while using it as a metaphor is a difficult technique.  However, it is most impacting in terms of composition and visual communication.  Taking the subject to the extreme in terms of perspective, juxtaposition and scale can create metaphors.  Visual metaphors are less obvious and hard to detect but they are always felt.  To successfully use objects as metaphors, we have to connect mentally and emotionally with the subject to make a photograph appear more than “just” a photograph.



Bibliography / References:

Cotton, C. (2 ed) (2004).  The Photograph as Contemporary Art.  London: Thames & Hudson.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s