Photography into Sculpture

‘Photography into sculpture’
MOMA Exhibition

I discovered an Exhibition which was held at MOMA in New York, April 8th- July 5th 1970.  The Aim of the exhibition was to discuss the continuity between photography and sculpture. The exhibition is described as a ‘comprehensive survey of photographically formed images used in a sculptural or fully dimensional manner’. This give me insight that the work being displayed could merely be presenting a series of work where the display of a photographical piece is 3D and therefore this doesn’t directly challenge my question of weather the definition of sculpture actually matters when categorising work.

Google describes a sculpture as:

sculpture –noun –the art of making two- or three-dimensional representative or abstract forms, especially by carving stone or wood or by casting metal or plaster.

“the boundary between painting and sculpture is displaced”

– verb –make or represent (a form) by carving, casting, or other shaping techniques.

“the choir stalls were each carefully sculptured”

For the 1970’s, this exhibition was still discussing a very important issue in the art world. There was many restrictions to what art could be and what was widely recognised as being FINE ART. There was a struggle to connect with photography being anything other that documentary. Photojournalism and other representational forms of photography were common but acceptance of an artist using photography to communicate and idea or vision with intent was low. During the 1960’s Dr S D Jouhar formed the Photographic Fine Art Association yet stated:

At the moment photography is not generally recognized as anything more than a craft. In the USA photography has been openly accepted as Fine Art in certain official quarters. It is shown in galleries and exhibitions as an Art. There is not corresponding recognition in this country. The London Salon shows pictorial photography, but it is not generally understood as an art. Whether a work shows aesthetic qualities or not it is designated ‘Pictorial Photography’ which is a very ambiguous term. The photographer himself must have confidence in his work and in its dignity and aesthetic value, to force recognition as an Art rather than a Craft”

Therefore we can understand the setting of MOMA’s ‘Photography into sculpture’ was very controversial. Peter C. Bunnell, who directed the exhibition and curated the show, makes many points in his description of the exhibition. He says that ‘photography into sculpture embraces concerns behond those of the traditional print, or what may be termed ‘flat’ work and in so doing seeks to engender a heightened realization that art in photography has to do with interpretation and craftsmanship rather than mere record making’. This has touched on many of the issues surrounding popular opinion, In his opening lines, Bunnell is trying to give eyes for an appreciation of the medium as an art form. He also talks about how the ‘imaginary qualities of the photograph, particularly spatial complexity, have been transformed into actually space and dimension, thereby shifting photography into sculpture’. This concept interests me, where the artist here have physically manipulated their photographs to be printed upon different surfaces/materials, my own practise has started to explore how the photograph in its purist printed sense can become a sculpture.


I’m interested by the theoretical parallels between minimalism conceiving space and photography being sculptural. Bunnell touches on a movement from internal meaning an iconography to a visual duality in which materials become content and are used to conceive volume/space. A key concept for minimalism was that the work gave way to a consideration of the viewer’s body in relational to the space. The Context for this exhibition surrounded the rise of the minimalist movement, therefore maybe some influence of their concepts had been drawn upon.

I am particularly interested in the work of Jack Dale’s which is described to be a construction of negative and positive images on glass. This is a medium I am interested in exploring so therefore think it would be beneficial to look into his work.

‘Cubed Woman 3’ by Jack Dale

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