Photos/Pots and Pots/Photos – Ceramics and Photography: Similarities and differences

It is generally acknowledged that sculpture and ceramics have much in common. I have argued elsewhere that actually, beyond three-dimensionality, sculpture and ceramics have very little in common, possibly even nothing at all. In fact, I will argue here that there are more similarities (and some differences) between photography and ceramics than exist between ceramics and all and any other art form. Among the differences, the most obvious is that ceramics is one of the oldest of the arts while photography, and its descendants, the youngest. This being said, ceramics is the most multi-disciplinary of the arts and as such shares commonalities with all of them. The multi-disciplinary aspect is an integral part of its specificity in its bringing together of form and surface, 2D and 3D, image and object; ceramics interfaces with all and any art forms in significant ways, including architecture.

This is particularly true in its relationship with photography; a relationship that has largely been ignored.

The argument I am making here for such deep connections and relationships between ceramics and photography will be developed following this framework:

  1. Both imply an alchemic transformation, based on chemical and physical processes.
  2. Both use light, ceramics as radiating heat, contained in the kiln, photography as captured light.
  3. Both are forms of archives, of memories and experiences.
  4. Both are art of time, of fleetingness and permanency.
  5. Both imply negative/positive transfers and multiples, using molds and prints.
  6. Both imply the parallax distortion of space.
  7. Both use framing and pictorial spaces strategically.
  8. Both imply differences of viewpoints.
  9. Both depend on dark on light/ light on dark dynamics.
  10. Both are in a specific relation to death.

This list alone would suffice to establish the similarities (and differences) between ceramics and photography even though there may be other points to add. These connections and relationships may not be obvious at first and my argument is probably in many ways surprising. Yet, I will develop each one here in attempting to establish its validity and in the process provide for a deeper understanding and appreciation of both ceramics and of photography.

Anyway, death and ceramics are intimately connected in such ritualistic offerings, a connection that continues presently in their displays in museums, which are (as has been repeated numerous times before) not only temples but cemeteries for art.