Related themes

Sets, Stories, and Situations

Throughout the history of the medium, photographers have staged images to evoke or reference literature, films, or real events.

Room (Zimmer)

Thomas Demand
(German, born 1964)

1996. Chromogenic color print, 67 3/4 x 7' 7 3/8" (172 x 232 cm)

Thomas Demand makes full-scale paper and cardboard recreations of seemingly mundane scenarios, and then photographs them. The scenes, typically devoid of human presence, appear banal but often reference an event of historical or sociopolitical significance.

Room (Zimmer) is based on an unauthorized photograph of the New York City hotel room where L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology, lived during the early 1970s. In 1950, Hubbard wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, the book that was the basis for the controversial religion Scientology.

At first, Demand’s models seem an accurate depiction of each location, but closer examination reveals a lack of details in the paper fabrications. This tension in Demand’s photographs raises questions about whether photography is a tool for capturing reality or whether photographs capture an interpretation of reality based on prior knowledge or experience. “It’s not about the real place,” Demand has said. “It’s much more about what we have seen as the real place.”1

MoMA Audio: Thomas Demand, 2005,

An image, especially a positive print, recorded by exposing a photosensitive surface to light, especially in a camera.

The ratio between the size of an object and its model or representation, as in the scale of a map to the actual geography it represents.

1. A detailed three-dimensional representation, usually built to scale, of another, often larger, object. In architecture, a three-dimensional representation of a concept or design for a building; 2. A person who poses for an artist.