I think something from the Egyptian scholar Muhammad al-Ghazali (not the
famous al-Ghazzali, but the scholar who recently died) might be of
relevance. In "The Sunna of the Prophet: the People of Fiqh versus People
of Hadith" he states:
"As for images, we must distinguish between two types: three-dimensional
images which sculptors produce now, and drawings which are done on flat
surfaces - paper, skins and other mediums. Depiction, whether through
photography or with a pen, is a component of medicine, security, astronomic
and biological sciences, history and many social matters. The basis in it
is permissibility as is found in the hadith in Muslim, "except marks on a
garment," and the hadith of Razin in which Ibn 'Abbas was asked about a
wage being paid for writing out a Qur'an. He said, "There is nothing wrong.
They are painters. They eat from the work of their hands." No one says that
the form of a face in a mirror in forbidden. No one says that doing that by
one means or other turns the permissibility into the forbidden.
"This sort of image is only forbidden when it carries a religious stamp to
religions which Islam rejects, like images of Buddha, Brahma, or Christian
crucifixes or any religious token contrary to tawhid. Similarly forbidden
is any depiction which violates good manners and provokes instincts to
disobey Allah. As for three-dimensional statues, the texts related about
them are clear about rejecting them, unless they are dolls for girls or
little toys or what we find in various types of jewellery, which no one
would think of venerating or worshipping."
This sounds sensible to me.