edited by Sarah Hamill and Megan R. Luke. Getty Research Institute, 2017. 328 p. ill. ISBN 9781606065341 (pbk), $45.00.
Reviewed July 2018
Photography and Sculpture explores the complicated relationship between these two media from a multidisciplinary perspective. It looks at various ways photographs and sculptural artworks have impacted each other and how photographic representation has influenced the field of art history. It rejects the idea that the aesthetics of the photography of sculpture are due to technological restrictions, and instead suggests that the images represent intentional choices made by artists, historians, and photographers.
The book consists of an introduction, four sections comprised of 3-4 essays, and an epilogue. Each essay is written by a different author, all of whom are professors or researchers with varying specialties in germane subjects. The introduction contextualizes the sections that follow within a historical and theoretical framework, providing useful background on competing views of photography as an intermediary for sculpture and relevant technologies.
The first section, "Reimagining the Classical Past," explores how photography has influenced the ways sculpture is interpreted and its impact on research methodologies in art history and archaeology. "Perceiving Sculpture Through Photography" builds upon this by exploring how modernism has changed the ways photography is utilized in art and art history. For example, one of the essays in this section considers how the early photography of African art extends colonization. The third section, "Technologizing Experience," explores how technologies contribute to this dialogue. It includes an essay about stereographs being both supportive of and in competition with the cultural consumption of sculpture. Another essay discusses how minimalist sculpture, being divorced from materiality and the concept of the original object, relates differently to photography than other sculptural forms. While there is no discreet conclusion, the final section reflects back on the book, nicely recapping contrasting ideas and important technologies and theories. The epilogue suggests that the difficulty in reconciling these two media can serve as a catalyst for continued research about the complex relationship between sculpture and photography.
Photography and Sculpture provides a solid background for people new to the subject by highlighting the work of significant theorists and artists, while providing interesting insights to those who are already familiar with this topic. The essays build nicely upon each other but are also comprehensible individually. The tone varies significantly, ranging from informal to scholarly depending on the author, but each essay includes endnotes with bibliographical references. The images, a combination of colored plates and black and white reproductions, are closely tied to the text and helpful in illustrating the authors’ points. Overall, the book is thought-provoking and readable, and the interdisciplinary approach makes it appropriate for libraries that support programs in art history, photography, aesthetics, archaeology, visual culture, and architecture.