Related themes

Sets, Stories, and Situations

Throughout photography’s history, photographers have staged images to evoke literature, films, real events, and, sometimes, the artifice of the medium itself.

Room (Zimmer)

Thomas Demand
(German, born 1964)

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

Drawing upon his background in sculpture, Thomas Demand used paper to build a re-creation of the hotel room where the controversial American writer and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard lived and worked in 1972 and 1973. He used a photograph of the room as his source. After completing his model, Demand photographed it, creating an image that mimics the original, but that is also full of artifice. The even studio lighting, the sharp creases in the white pillow in the foreground, and the lack of detail on objects in the room—like the numberless face of the alarm clock or the keyless typewriter—signal that this is not reality but a mock-up of it. This tension between reality and artifice raises questions about the trust we place in photographs as accurate, unmitigated records of events, times, and places. “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.

Deception or trickery.

A representation of a person or thing in a work of art.

A three-dimensional work of art made by a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.

A setting for or a part of a story or narrative.

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.

The area of an image—usually a photograph, drawing, or painting—that appears closest to the viewer.

When Scenes Are Not What They Seem
While Demand’s scenes (which are typically devoid of people) may appear banal, they are often based on sites where significant and sometimes grisly historical, political, or newsworthy events took place, or on rooms or other spaces which once housed controversial figures. He has, for example, recreated such sites as the kitchen of the farmhouse near Tikrit, Iraq, where former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein went into hiding; a Stasi (secret police) office in the former East Germany after it was ransacked by citizens; and a ballot recounting station set up in Florida during the contested 2000 American presidential election.