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Hiroshi Sugimoto - Luke McGuff

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August 16th, 2010


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03:50 pm - Hiroshi Sugimoto
Hiroshi Sugimoto, Time Exposed

One of Hiroshi Sugimoto's most famous series is single-exposure images taken for the entire length of a movie. In all cases for the Interior Theaters, it looks like he's in the seat directly underneath the projectionist booth. The screen becomes a blinding gateway of potential, and when it becomes time to look away, many architectural details are revealed by the blinding light that would otherwise be hidden. If I'm in an older theater, with appointments and details worth looking at, I love to look around at the play of shadows and the lighting. But these photos, with exposures lasting for an hour or more, reveal different details: the light is unidirectional, and from a source the architect never intended. Whether the examples here were shot in the 1970s or 1990s, many of the theaters are old enough that they still have stages; one still has an organ.

The particular one I just mentioned isn't online that I can tell, but here are a couple examples:


Paramount, Oakland, 1994


Ohio Theater, Ohio, 1980

Of course the screen is going to be completely washed out, that's the point. But to hold all other details shows a great mastery of the medium. My favorite, though is of a drive in:


Union City Drive In, Union City, 1993

...because of the way the plane trails make it appear that the movie is leaking out from the screen.

Sugimoto has spoken about photography as a means of fossilizing time:
Fossils work almost the same way as photography...as a record of history. The accumulation of time and history becomes a negative of the image. And this negative comes off, and the fossil is the positive side. This is the same as the action of photography. So that’s why I am very curious about the artistic stage of imprinting the memories of the time record. A fossil is made over four-hundred-fifty million years—it takes that much time. But photography, it’s instant. So, to me, photography functions as a fossilization of time.
Seeing these theater photographs, the dimension of preservation is added. How many of these theaters still exist?

Time Exposed was originally published in 1995, as the catalog to a German exhibition. It also includes examples of the Dioramas series. When you look at a diorama in a museum, it's obviously and intentionally a construction. But photographing it in black and white, and rearranging the lighting to be more natural, fools the eye and mind. Is this a real scene? We know it isn't, but the abstraction added by the black and white film, and the control that Sugimoto brings to the medium, have to make us pause and think for a second. He applies the same techniques of abstraction and relighting to his Portraits series.

But looking at the website, I discovered another series that I like, Conceptual Forms. Here he takes 19th century wood carvings meant to illustrate mathematical concepts and photographs them as if they were heroic sculpture.


Kuen's Surface: A Surface with Constant Negative Curvature

The object is probably small enough to be handheld, but the photograph makes it look dozens of feet tall.

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