Doug Prince - The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection New York Wednesday, January 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this online auction comes from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021), the pioneering curator, teacher, and photographic historian. All lots are sold with No Reserve and the proceeds will be distributed to six institutions with whom Bunnell was associated — Rochester Institute of Technology, Ohio University, Yale University, The George Eastman Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and Princeton University Art Museum — to establish endowments to support the study of photographic history.


    Doug Prince’s innovative and genre-defying photo sculptures were featured in Peter Bunnell’s groundbreaking 1970 exhibition, Photography into Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art. Produced as a sequel to Bunnell’s 1968 exhibition Photography as Printmaking, Photography into Sculpture examined the ways artists of the time were utilizing photographic imagery to investigate three-dimensionality. By incorporating form and spatiality, the picture’s subject, literal or symbolic, was transformed.

    “These photographer/sculptors are seeking a new intricacy of meaning analogous to the complexity of our senses.”
    —Peter C. Bunnell

    Fittingly, one of the works in this lot features a portrait of Peter Bunnell himself. Prince made the image during a visit to New York. In the first negative in the three-layer object, Bunnell is seen holding a daguerreotype, reflecting the light. In contrast, the background layer is a positive image of Manhattan and clouds. Prince notes, ‘I saw it as a metaphor of the photo-historian reflecting the light from the past into the future.’



    Installation image from Photography into Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, 1970


    Bunnell began his long career in photography as a student of Minor White’s at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the 1950s and was recruited by White to work on the seminal periodical of artistic photography, Aperture. He joined the staff of The Museum of Modern Art in 1966 as a collection cataloguer, becoming Associate Curator and then Curator of Photography. In 1972, he was hired as the inaugural David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton University.


    Bunnell served as Director of the Princeton University Art Museum from 1973 to 1978, and as Acting Director from 1998 to 2000, while also being the Museum’s Curator of Photography throughout the entirety of his tenure. Bunnell built a broad-ranging collection of photographs at the Museum, the firsthand examination of which became a central element of the student experience in his classes and seminars. Bunnell also assembled a personal collection of photography over the course of his long career that reflects his vast and deep understanding of the medium. Begun in the 1950s, before photography galleries and dealers were commonplace, Bunnell’s collection is a deeply personal one, put together with a sense of joy and curiosity that includes both icons and lesser-known gems spanning the history of photography.

    • Provenance

      Collection of Peter C. Bunnell, Princeton, New Jersey

    • Catalogue Essay

      The works included in this lot are as follows:

      Portrait of Peter C. Bunnell
      Floating Fan

The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection


Lot offered with No Reserve

Selected Photographic Sculptures

Gelatin silver transparencies within plexiglas.
Each approximately 5 x 5 in. (12.7 x 12.7 cm)
Three photographic sculptures, each a composite of layered transparencies enclosed within a plexiglass box.

Full Cataloguing

$3,000 - 5,000 

Sold for $2,520

Contact Specialist

Christopher Mahoney

Senior International Specialist


Vanessa Hallett

Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman

The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection

Online Auction 25 January - 1 February 2023