Sugimoto, Hiroshi

Sugimoto, Hiroshi
▪ 2003

      In 2002 Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto had his first major solo exhibition in the U.K. as part of the annual Edinburgh International Festival. “The Architecture of Time” was presented at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Scotland's highly regarded contemporary art space, and the Stills Gallery, the country's leading centre for photography and digital media, from August 3 to September 21. The exhibition incorporated more than 30 large-scale images from Sugimoto's “Seascapes” and “Architecture” series and a new work, “Pinetrees,” a multipaneled piece he created specifically for the festival. “Time exposed” was the phrase Sugimoto used to describe his artistic effort, referring to the length of exposure (sometimes as long as an hour and a half or more) during which each image slowly burned onto the film. Photographed with a 19th-century large-format camera, long exposures, and 8 × 10-in (20 × 25-cm) negatives, Sugimoto's work had the meditative quality of Japanese art.

      Sugimoto was born in Tokyo in 1948 and received a B.A. in sociology and politics from St. Paul's University in Tokyo in 1970. In 1972 he obtained a B.F.A. in photography from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. He conceived his first body of work, “Dioramas,” in 1976, two years after he had moved from California to New York. Photographing exhibits inside natural history museums, Sugimoto's images brought to life extinct creatures and prehistoric situations. The photographs took on a sense of authenticity that the museum dioramas themselves did not possess. In his next series, begun in 1978, he photographed movie theatres and drive-ins with an exposure the length of the film's duration. All that appeared visible in the photographs was the luminescent rectangular screen in the centre of the theatre and the surrounding architectural details.

      In December 1995 Sugimoto had a pivotal three-part exhibition of more than 120 photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Two years later the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles commissioned him to take architectural portraits of the world's iconic landmarks and buildings for an exhibition called “At the End of the Century: One Hundred Years of Architecture.” The exhibition debuted in Tokyo in 1998 and traveled to Mexico City, Cologne, Ger., and Chicago before it arrived in Los Angeles in April 2000. Also in the spring of 2000, the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin presented “Sugimoto: Portraits,” which traveled to New York City in 2001. Sugimoto's life-sized black-and-white images of figures from wax museums were photographed in the spirit of Renaissance portraiture. In many “Portraits” the subjects look as if they actually sat for the photographer.

      Sugimoto received the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award in 1999. In 2001 he won the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. The award was accompanied by a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Hasselblad Center in the Göteberg (Swed.) Museum of Art and celebrated Sugimoto as one of the most respected photographers of the age for his combination of “Eastern meditative ideas with Western cultural motifs.”

Marla Caplan

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Universalium. 2010.

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