Unit 1: Visual Recording in Art and Design – Criteria P 1, 3
During the research for this term and chatting with Rachael Talibart about her work on seascapes and seashore photography I have come across Hiroshi Sugimotos work several times. The total antithesis of what I always felt a seascape should look like, but strangely beautiful and captivating, dark bands devoid of colour, the grey and white stripes show the long exposure technique and flatten the sea into a calm void.
Hiroshi Sugimoto (born 1948) was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, where he studied politics and sociology at Rikkyo University, later retraining as an artist at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. He has been active as a photographer since the 1970s. Some of his major photographic series include the Dioramas, Theaters, Portraits, Architecture and Lightning Fields. He currently lives in New York and Tokyo.
His use of Large-format cameras coupled, often, with long exposure times creates smooth, time-worn images where the ocean surface doesn’t have ripples so much as permanent creases.
The photographs engage with repetition and transformation on two levels, through representation of the ocean as a rhythmic entity of waves, tides and seasonal changes and also in the repetitive nature of Sugitmoto’s project, image after image of the same black and white composition, the sky above and the ocean below, the horizon splitting perfectly across the exact middle of the composition form a series of images steeped in typology. Often, a soft, opaque mist overtakes the frame and connects the ocean to the air. This transforms how we visualise the sea and our very perception of what a seascape should be, Bright vivid colours of sun, sea and sand and the capturing of that on film or digital media as a joyous landscape brimming with colour and life.
For more than 30 years, Hiroshi Sugimoto has traveled the world photographing its seas, producing an extended meditation on the passage of time and the natural history of the earth reduced to its most basic, primordial substances: water and air. Always capturing the sea at a moment of absolute tranquility, Sugimoto has composed all the photographs identically, with the horizon line precisely bifurcating each image. The repetition of this strict format reveals the uniqueness of each meeting of sea and sky, with the horizon never appearing exactly the same way twice. The photographs are romantic yet absolutely rigorous, apparently universal but exceedingly specific.
Sugimoto speaks passionately about his work on seascapes
Water and air. So very commonplace are these substances, they hardly attract attention―and yet they vouchsafe our very existence. The beginnings of life are shrouded in myth: Let there water and air. Living phenomena spontaneously generated from water and air in the presence of light, though that could just as easily suggest random coincidence as a Deity. Let’s just say that here happened to be a planet with water and air in our solar system, and moreover at precisely the right distance from the sun for the temperatures required to coax forth life. While hardly inconceivable that at least one such planet should exist in the vast reaches of universe, we search in vain for another similar example. Mystery of mysteries, water and air are right there before us in the sea. Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a voyage of seeing.
I find myself again being drawn towards water and the sea, and as much as I want to do this as a theme, I am not sure I will get the time required to get to the coast enough to do shoots and reshoots. Perhaps I can find an inland waterway with potential or another water source to use.
Source Hiroshi Sugimoto and Rachael Talibart