After graduating from St Pauls University in Tokyo, Hiroshi moved to LA to study at the Art Centre College of Design. In 1974 he then moved to New York where he visited tourist attractions wondering what he could photograph. On a trip to the Natural History Museum, Hiroshi was struck by how real the figures and animals looked on display with the constructed backdrop imagery.
Hiroshi talks of how he closed one eye and it became how the camera sees, ‘However fake the subject, a camera can make it look real’-Hiroshi Sugimoto. Sugimoto started his ‘Diorama’ series in 1976 and it was immediately bought by The Museum of Modern Art.
Throughout Sugimoto’s work there is a theme of capturing and exploring time and a study of memory, his approach is philosophical, relating to time and space within the history of the universe.
In his ongoing ‘Seascapes’ series 1980- Hiroshi travelled the world to photograph seascapes divided exactly into half air and half water, the two most important components to life itself. Using a large format analogue camera, Hiroshi marked the horizon line on the viewfinder to ensure each image in the series was the same.
By photographing the sea, He was able to create a view that was possible to have been viewed thousands of years ago by our ancestors. There are no people or boats in the pictures, nothing to suggest a particular timescale. This series could not have worked so well on an ever changing and populated landscape.
It was as a child, Sugimoto first viewed the ocean. As he remembers his first memory, Hiroshi talks of having a consciousness and an awareness that he exists within the world, but also a realisation that he will also oneday die. He has understood his time and place in the world and has captured this photographically throughout his work. By looking into his own Seascapes, he sees his inner self. There is a form of meditation associated with his work, an individual perspective for the viewer. ‘Thousands of years of human history are within me’-Hiroshi Sugimoto (Memories of Origin, The Lab May 10th 2013).
In 1978, The ‘Theatres’ series saw Hiroshi photograph the insides of movie theatres, exposing for the whole duration of the movie, sometimes for 2 or 3 hours. All that is left of the movie is a white light. The theatre is lit by the light from the blank screen and the audience have disappeared completely. Hiroshi is able to record and communicate ‘nothingness’ with the viewer, the idea that so much initial information can be recorded and appear as nothing as long as the parameters of the cinema are able to hold the ‘nothingness’ idea.
In the photographers work ‘Architecture’ Sugimoto has intentionally blurred the lines, wanting to ‘go backwards in time’ –(Hiroshi Sugimoto contacts) to capture the original idea and vision of the designer. Abstract forms are seen and beauty is created by the shapes of the buildings. We can appreciate the aesthetic nature of this, as normally in a sharp image our eyes are constantly searching, recording information and judging the final image on detail that is not always important and our own set of values and beliefs to whether the image is a good representation of the subject. This is all absent, and we can enjoy the abstract.
‘Memories of Origin’ The Lab-May 2013 documentary.
‘Contacts-Hiroshi Sugimoto’ Vol. 1 & 2 LS Bryan.