Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Seascapes

Hiroshi Sugimoto has become one of today’s most celebrated photographers, known for his black and white photographs which render their subjects in extreme tonal detail and which explore human activity and the beginnings of life on earth.

Sugimoto began his ongoing series Seascapes in 1980 and has produced over 200 photographs of various seas and oceans across the globe including the Black Sea, the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea and the English Channel. In every image from the series Sugimoto uses a large format, black box camera to capture sea and sky in perfect harmony. Sugimoto divides his composition in two, with the horizon line dissecting the photograph exactly in the middle.

Waiting for a moment of absolute tranquillity, Sugimoto varies the exposure times he uses with each image, to create differing visual effects. Using a large-format camera, he is able to render the minimalist landscape in exquisite detail, giving the surface of the photograph a textural quality. The volume and fluidity of the water is depicted in every ripple that Sugimoto captures, giving the photographs an incredible sense of depth, despite their minimalist appearance. In this photograph of the English Channel, Sugimoto contrasts sky and sea in black and white, with the horizon line blurring the two where they meet. In other images from the series, however, Sugimoto photographs the landscapes as a continuous field of blacks and greys.

Sugimoto strips the natural elements of water and air back to their most basic form, yet his images evoke much greater themes such as the beginning of life on earth and the concept of time. Indeed, Sugimoto describes his photographs from this series as time travel, in that while each photograph captures a unique moment, as all photographs do, they also evoke a sense of timelessness. Sugimoto’s theories on time are grounded in the concepts of repetition and constancy, depicted in the smooth surfaces of his images and the continuity of tides and waves. His photographs aim to reconsider time outside of the prescribed Western model relating to growth and progress, which must always come to a conclusion, and rather posits a more universal idea of time as an eternal repetition.

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