What are we to make of the return of the ‘picture’ in photography after conceptual art? In this article I engage directly with the lineage provided by Jeff Wall for his own brand of ‘pictorialist’ photography, and his surprising appropriation of Sherrie Levine to this end. I suggest that Wall's gesture of appropriation and the structure of his own works reveal a more irrational sense of the ‘picture’ as a force of deformation which may usefully be extended to the work of Thomas Demand. I argue that Demand's work does not support the terms of modernist aesthetics, and in particular, cannot be credibly interpreted as founding photography as a ‘medium’, as Michael Fried has suggested. Instead I argue that Demand's work presents photography as parasitic and bound in an irrational relationship to sculpture. Neither medium is self-supporting and each is instead ‘propped’ on the other, forced to cohere by the deforming operations of the ‘picture’.