The photo book series asking you to read between the lines

A New Nothing began as an online platform for image-based conversations. A new set of books drawing on the platform’s vast archive is taking the dialogue offline

A New Nothing is an online platform founded in 2014 as a space for pairs of artists to converse in the best way they know how: visually. It was launched by Ben Alper and Nat Ward, who often enjoyed their own “tangential” conversations about photography, and wanted a way to keep the discussions alive after Alper moved from New York to North Carolina. “Neither of us were great about keeping up on the phone, so we decided to create a website where we could converse explicitly with images,” Alper explains. Their early exchanges are still visible on the website, and all these years later, the conversation is still going.

After setting up the website, the pair quickly realised the merits of the medium and opened it up to other photographers. “The concept of A New Nothing was, and remains, quite simple: to offer an open and collaborative space for people to play with images in ‘public’. Beyond that, it’s a blank slate,” Alper says. “I see the site as a playground for narrative, sequencing, poetics and formal exploration. But I’m sure it means something different to each contributor, and that ultimately feels like the most important part of the project.”

The project has snowballed into a vast range of conversations between pairs of artists; Alper has lost count of how many images have appeared on A New Nothing, but estimates over 4,000. The paired photographers may have varying styles and focus areas, but are invited to engage in a back-and-forth that puts the emphasis on the tacit links between images. These sequences of images are often rich in detail and cryptic clues, encouraging viewers to read between the lines and uncover the train of thought that underscored the artistic response to the image before it.