Is a blank photograph a photograph? Do we commit ourselves to a particular model of photography by saying yes or no? As a kind of limit case, the blank photograph plays a recurring but contested role in debates about photography. This paper interrogates its rhetorical deployment and apparent consequences, but also seeks to rejoin the hypothetical blank with some real-world counterparts and thus to take stock of some recent trends and longstanding disputes in the field.
Brendan Fay is a lecturer in history of art at the University of Michigan. A department alumnus and former Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University, his research examines photography’s relationship to abstraction in the 1940s and 1950s.