The Photographic Detail and Sculptural Seeing
Sarah Hamill is Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of David Smith in Two Dimensions: Photography and the Matter of Sculpture (University of California Press, 2015), and, with Megan R. Luke, co-editor of Photography and Sculpture: The Art Object in Reproduction (Getty Publications, 2017). Current writing projects include contemporary photography and the metaphor of sculpture, the 1970s sculptures and films of Mary Miss, and the role of the photographic detail in the historiography of sculpture.
What do we see when we look at a photographic detail of a work of art? How is a detail––projected in the classroom or seen in a study image––both a rich repository of information, and an abstracted part of a whole? Since the 1880s, when Fratelli Alinari first introduced details into commercial catalogues of artworks, photographic details have been essential to art history as a discipline. The Photographic Detail and Sculptural Seeing maps a history and theory of the photographic detail for the study of sculpture. Building on recent scholarship on the role of details in painting, my project focuses on how details became prominent tools for the history of sculpture in the early 20th century––as both instruments of connoisseurship and stylistic analysis, and images that could elicit a sensuous, bodily, and delimited encounter with sculpture. The American scholar-photographer Clarence Kennedy is a key protagonist of this story, and I situate his photographic archive alongside those of professional firms and other early 20th century scholar-photographers.