Photography and the Non-Place: The Cultural Erasure of the City

My book was published in March 2019 by Palgrave MacMillan. The book includes photographs by myself, in addition to work from Ed Ruscha, Joel Sternfeld, Richard Misrach, Roy Arden, Wout Berger, Mikael Levin. An eclectic book that will make a critical contribution to other disciplines beyond visual sociology.

This book presents a critical and aesthetic defence of ‘non-place’ as an act of cultural reclamation. Through the restorative properties of photography, it re-conceptualizes the cultural significance of non-place. The non-place is often referred to as “wasteland”, and is usually avoided. Employing a deliberately allusive intertextuality, the book provides a unique insight into the contested notions surrounding landscape representation, collective memory and place. The non-place sites investigated in this book are located where access and ownership is often ambiguous or in dispute. They can be apprehended as having been produced through a process of speculative land investment, and cultural forgetting. There is a heightened sense when walking through these areas that non-place has the potential to reveal a version of England swathed in contesting notions concerning identity, loss, memory, landscape valorisation, and how we arrive at a more meaningful place.

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Fig. 4.5 The Deluge, Jim Brogden 2007
Fig. 5.8 Hard Core, Jim Brogden 2009
Fig. 5.3 Cloud, Jim Brogden 2009
Fig. 5.9 New Land, Jim Brogden 2009
Fig. 4.3 Passage, Jim Brogden 2007
Fig. 5.1 Landscape, Jim Brogden 2009
Fig. 3.15 Burnt Ground, Jim Brogden 2009
Fig. 5.6 Sand, Jim Brogden 2007
Fig. 2.1 Opening, Jim Brogden 2009

Dr Jim Brogden is Lecturer in Visual Communication Culture and MA Programme Leader for Film, Photography and Media in the School of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds.


  • Give us adequate images. We lack adequate images. Our civilization does not have adequate images. And I think a civilization is doomed or is going to die out like dinosaurs if it doesn’t develop an adequate language for adequate images.

    Werner Herzog


    Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must change.

    Bertolt Brecht


    The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

    Zygmunt Bauman


    One advantage of photography is that it’s visual and can transcend language.

    Lisa Kristine


    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker

  • If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language. Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.

    Salman Rushdie


    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

    William S. Burroughs

  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

    George Lucas

  • I believe that we face incredible obstacles in our attempts to see the world. Everything in our nature tries to deny the world around us; to refabricate it in our own image; to reinvent it for our own benefit. And so, it becomes something of a challenge, a task, to recover (or at least attempt to recover) the real world despite all the impediments to that end.

    Errol Morris

  • We never really know what’s around the corner when we’re filming – what turn a story will take, what a character will do or say to surprise us, how the events in the world will impact our story.

    Barbara Kopple


    If it’s far away, it’s news, but if it’s close at home, it’s sociology.

    James Reston


    There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and that would be a stupid stupidity not to have a camera on board.

    Werner Herzog


    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp

  • Watching a documentary with people hacking their way through some polar wasteland is merely a visual. Actually trying to deal with cold that can literally kill you is quite a different thing.

    Henry Rollins


    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu

  • So it is my firm belief, that if you want nowadays, to have a clear and distinct communication of your concepts, you have to use synthetic images, no longer words.

    Vilém Flusser


    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff

  • You try your hardest to give people their space, but at moments you know you’re capturing their image in ways they may or may not be okay with. It’s that rocking back and forth between respect and betrayal that I feel like is at the heart of the film.

    Kirsten Johnson

  • Photographers learn to interpret photographs in that technical way because they want to understand and use that ‘language’ themselves (just as musicians learn a more technical musical language than the layman needs). Social scientists who want to work with visual materials will have to learn to approach them in this more studious and time-consuming way

    Howard Becker



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