Monday, 24 January 2011

Research: Hiroshi Sugimoto

For my final research post, I've decided to write about another favourite photographer of mine, Hiroshi Sugimoto. I first came across his work through my love of Architectural photographs. I won't just focus on that though, because he's done some other amazing projects. Though Sugimoto does produce colour photographs, it's his black and white pictures that I find most interesting.

Barragan House, 2002, By Hiroshi Sugimoto

The Barragan house is part of his Architecture series, shot between 1997 and 2002. Sugimoto shot a whole selection of modernist buildings, with a large format camera, then deliberately altered the focus. He said he wanted to return to the core of the architects vision for the building.

The Luis Barragan house, is an example of the way an architect can use a combination of colour, texture, and light to define the character of a building. And the picture above, is an example of how Sugimoto likes to strip all of these away, forcing the viewer to concentrate on the form of the building, rather than it's constituent parts. By converting to monochrome, and deliberately throwing the picture out of focus, it becomes an abstract study, rather than a documentary shot.

Although the final shot is out of focus he still has to properly compose the original picture, In fact it's probably even more important to get the composition right, because you can't rely on other aspects of the photograph to attract the viewers attention. For this photograph he's used the lines of the building and the way they affect the light, to form a series of abstract shapes. If you were to view the original unaltered image they would clearly be walls and shadows, but after the transformation, it becomes almost like a cubist painting.

Lightning Fields, 2008, By Hiroshi Sugimoto

Part of a series of images called lightning fields. This picture isn't actually a normal photograph. Sugimoto produced it by placing a piece of film between a metal plate, and a van de graaf generator. The film then captured the arcing electricity. Sugimoto was inspired to create these images after a visit to William Henry Fox Talbot's home. He was fascinated by the links between Fox Talbot's use of science and the subsequent production of art. After conducting his experiments, Sugimoto produced a book called: nature of light (for which the above was the cover image), in which he looks at his work, and the work Fox Talbot created.

Of all the images in the series this is my favourite. As well as being an interesting documentation of the scientific processes involved, it also creates it's own mini landscape. The fractal nature of the arcing electricity forming two trees, and the other marks combining to give the impression of a sweeping hillside, and the hint of clouds. Like a lot of Sugimoto's pictures it reminds my of another art form, this time a charcoal sketch.

Lighting Fields, 2002, By Hiroshi Sugimoto

Part of the same series as the one before, this is another picture I really like. Rather than a softly undulating hillside though, this reminds me of a mountain pass. The markings seeming to sweep down forming a precipice. This time the trees are barely clinging on, having been battered by the wind. The shape in between the trees, reminds me of a phoenix, with it's long fiery tail. Although it still has elements of a charcoal drawing, it also reminds me of the type of woodcuts you see in Dante's inferno, or paradise lost.

Tyrrhenian Sea, by Hiroshi Sugimoto

Having explored Sugimoto's other works, I thought I'd finish with the subject that he's best known for, his seascapes.

This is a subject he's returned to again and again over the years. His intention with this photographs is to try to recreate a pristine image of the sea. The sort of view that our ancestors would have seen, uncluttered by the detritus of modern life.

The composition is virtually identical in all the pictures. The horizon is used to bisect the sea and the sky, usually straight through the middle of the picture but sometimes according to the rule of thirds. The only variations in the series are the level of light available, and the weather. Some of the pictures are perfectly clear like the one above, and sometimes they're taken in the fog, so the whole seems to blend together.

Well there you have it, my tenth and final research post. I've tried to keep this one a little shorter for you:)

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