by Patrizia di Bello. Bloomsbury Academic & Professional, May 2018. 216 p. ill. ISBN 9781350028227 (h/c), $114.00.
Reviewed November 2018
This book is an examination of photography of sculpture over time and the complex relationship between the mediums. The author of the book is Dr. Patrizia di Bello, a Senior Lecturer in history and theory of photography at Birkbeck, University of London. The format of the book is hardcover without a dust jacket, and it contains black and white photo plates. In terms of content, the book is comprised of seven parts not including the list of images, acknowledgements, notes, bibliography, and index. The seven main parts are an introduction followed by six chapters of case studies.
The first chapter, “Daguerreotypes and Calotypes of Hiram Power’s Greek Slave, 1847 to 1852,” explores the issue of photography as a vehicle for reproduction. The authority of the photography is juxtaposed with prevailing methods of reproduction while showing it was not seen as an art requiring artistic talent, but rather as a technical skill, means of manufacture, or mode of documentation. This idea of fine art versus mechanical reproduction is elaborated on further in chapter two, “Stereoscopic photographs of The Bride by Raffaelle Monti, 1862.” The case study in this chapter examines stereographic images as material commodities that also offer experience (of sculpture) in an exciting way. Chapter three, “Pictorialist Prints: Eduard J. Steichen’s Rodin -- Le Penseur, 1902 to 1906,” moves past commercial photography into a rich examination of Pictorialist photographers.
In the penultimate chapter, “Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Series, in prints and magazines 1973 to 1985,” the line between photographer and sculptor is blurred when the sculptor, Mendieta, is the conscious photographer of her own work. The final chapter, “A “Digital” Conclusion: Barry X Ball’s Purity (2008-09),” moves the reader from the analog technologies of the previous chapters to the digital present of photography. In this section, the reader is faced with current modes of reproduction in the digital image age: 3D printing, 3D modeling, scanning, and more.
Overall, it is very easy to dive into the narrative driven by the author, whose writing style is clear without being dry. As previously stated, there is rich back matter for readers to explore. The writing overall is excellent, and this book would be a great addition to any academic library, and especially at institutions that support art history, applied art, history, and museum studies programs. Additionally, it would pair very well with Photography and Sculpture: the Art Object in Reproduction, edited by Sarah Hamill and Megan R. Luke, which is a title previously reviewed by this publication (July 2018).