Hiroshi Sugimoto

This is some information On Hiroshi Sugimoto as I saw his work in recent lectures and in a few books and liking his style for just simply going out and trying his ideas. Therefore it can be said that Sugimoto is an inspiration to me as I too like the notion of having an idea and then acting upon it by either going out and trying it (flash work with the insects) or by heavily researching it before hand to see if it possible.

Hiroshi Sugimoto was born in 1948 in Tokyo. In 1972 however he retrained as an artist at the Art Center College of Art and Design, Los Angeles after studying Politics and Sociology. Here he received a BFA in Fine Arts. Since then he has been honoured the 2001 Hasselblad Foundation International Award (Hasselblad Honour) and is now travelling between Tokyo and New york. Furthermore he mainly works on large format 8×10 cameras.

One of ways in which Sugimoto works is by first thinking of a vision and then acting upon it. An idea that became a reality was his series of ‘Theatres’.

Union City 1993

For this series he had an idea of ‘how can I show a whole film in just one frame’.Time is significantly portrayed in this series. Implementing and playing with the idea that photography is used to freeze time so the image can be studied. Whereas Sugimoto uses a single frame to capture the whole film to question time. Therefore Sugimoto shows time as both stilled and sustained forever.

Here you can see the long exposure at work with the light trails from either planes or stars in the background along with the merged light of the different frames of the film, which adds to the sustained forever feel of time.

This in tern creates a bright white light that has been said to be almost religious as it dominants and stands out from the rest whilst lighting the scene further as well as symbolising the pureness that us associated within religion.

As you can see this sort of style is recreated throughout the different theatres Sugimoto visited.In a way    this could almost be a typography like the works of Bernd & Hilla Becher as the screens are usually central  in the frame and stay constant where the style of theatre and location change, just like the A frames of the  Bechers. The frames stayed the same and only the location and style of frame differed.

What I like about these images is that the only light source is coming from the dimmed theatre lights and  from the screen only illuminating so much but still managing to capture so much detail and capture the  emptiness that Sugimoto talked about.

Another known series from Sugimoto is called ‘Conceptual forms’. This series involved he photographing both German mathematical and English made mechanical scientific models.

The idea behind this series was that he felt motivated to take pictures of the models since they were not made for the use of Art. Therefore with this in mind he had the idea of brining art and science together.  He says that Art resides even in things with no artistic intentions.

This image is of a spur gear that has some more gears inside it to reduce the volume of mechanism. For example in  this image would not be seen as art if it was left on its own or with the other models. However thanks to sugimotos  lighting and plain black backgrounds we can fully appreciate the shapes, patterns and maybe even think about the  functions and purposes that this model was once used for.

This model represents the surface of constant negative curvature. I like the fact that it could be on going out of the  frame, but the fact that Sugimoto did not include all of the model means that the viewer can imagine it continuing or it  can be representative of the on going curve.

With these images I like the fact that he did not photograph them with the harsh, straight on light as this would of  made them look as though they were taken for the use of documentation and science rather than the showing of the  shapes, and the textures, which draw them more to the art side. As well as agreeing with Steff in the Interview on the i  idea that creating shadows often hides things or makes you think about why it is in shadow and what is it hiding

Furthermore it is good that sugimoto photographed a side that is damaged as most photographers would of either  chosen another side to picture or not bother. This shows the models history and even time again, giving more  information to the image.

As said in the interview it is hard to find any particular artist that can be related to Sugimoto, however I think that Karl Blossfeldt’s pictures of the flower heads and leaves are similar to sugimotos work as in a way they are minimalistic despite being for different reasons, Blossfeldt’s images were more for scientific purposes whereas Sugimoto’s is more for the sake of art and time.

Similarly, in terms of lighting he could be close to the work of Edward Weston as the lighting seems planned and thought out. However the background is not as plain.

Likewise his other series ‘lightening fields’ can be related to my recent images of the leaf as both show the patterns and line of the simplistic image despite the fact that my image has a closer focus and not created using electricity. However the natural side of the two images are close.

As well as liking the images Sugimoto has produced I like some of his philosophies and the way he thinks. For example he has an idea and then he acts upon it, even if it does take years to perfect the image or idea that he has in his head.

Information from:

Conceptual Forms, Actes Sud, Foundation Cartier pour l’art contemporain

The Photo Book – Phaidon

Sally O’Rielly



The New York Times – youtube

Villamaninart – youtube

Isbvt – youtube

White Cube

The videos:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

  1. #1 by rockwell sonicrafter on May 17, 2010 - 2:50 am

    I feel a lot more men and women need to read this, very beneficial info.

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