Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Hiroshi Sugimoto (  1948 – date) is a Japanese photographer who is described as ‘one of the worlds leading photographers’(Simon Groom, Edinburgh International Festival 2011 brochure, p56). He was born in Tokyo and went to University in Rikkyo, studying politics and sociology. He retrained as an artist in California and uses photography to illustrate transience of life. Sugimoto mainly uses a large format camera and has done series such as ‘Dioramas’ – where he photographed the dioramas in natural history museum in such a was as to fool the eye into thinking they were real.
The exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery was in two parts.

Lightning Fields.

Lightning Fields. Hiroshi Sugimoto.

These images were produced by Sugimoto experimenting with the static electricity produced by a Van der Graff generator, capturing this on photographic film in immense detail. These images often look like strange life forms. Sugimoto says ‘Specters play havoc with my darkroom- demonic specters of static electricity that haunt silver halide photography’  (Sugimoto, Nature of Light, 2009, p79). Over the years Sugimoto found that he could not completely rid his darkroom of the specters and eventually began experimenting with them, using static electricity discharges to produce images.  Initially these images were relatively crude, but he gradually learnt to control them and produced images with finer and finer detail.  He eventually tried discharging the static electricity under water, which produced very detail images resembling life forms.

Lightning Fields. Hiroshi Sugimoto.
 ‘Have I vanquished my nemesis at long last? Or have the demons wholly usurped me?Very probably there’s nu end conclusion in store. Gaining knowledge of something only leads to even greater unknowns, including the darkroom of my own mind’  (Sugimoto, Nature of Light, 2009, p85)

When I saw the original advertisement for this exhibition I was not convinced that I would appreciate it. However, when the images are shown printed on enormous canvases they are extremely impressive, and show minute and delicate details. They look like branching trees, or fungi, and some look strangely like the pictures of the worms that are found living under huge pressures in the depths of the ocean.

Tube Worms, Galápagos Islands, Emory Kristoff

They are images I can look at over and over and always find something new to see.

Photogenic Drawings.

Fox-Talbot (1800 – 1877) was one of the pioneers of photography who produced ‘photogenic drawings’ by using light sensitive paper to produce a negative,the Calotype process.

Fox-Talbot. by Herbert Lambert from an 1850s wet plate negative

Sugimoto used original Fox-Talbot negatives and scaled them up and reprinted them. This has produced a series of images that have a very subtle appeal, some with an almost ghostly effect. The colours are browns and blues, with a faint image, that need careful study. Of one Sugimoto says ‘ A simple stem of leaves, probably a sprig of rosemary….. “there's rosemary, that’s for remembrance”  and remembered it did, for we are seeing the memory of a particular specimen of a plant that existed, briefly, almost two centuries ago’. (Sugimoto, Nature of Light, 2009, p49), and rosemary can still be imaged today, although her using the modern technology of a scanner and digital manipulation.

Rosemary for Remembrance (scanned)

This is an interesting exhibiton in that it has many contrasts: old and new, soft and hard, detailed and blurred. It shows a wide range of skills in an obviously very experienced photographer and printer. One I will remember for a long time.

No comments:

Post a Comment